Campaign SightFirst II conclusion

PUBLISHED: 09:22 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 22:02 15 June 2010

The generosity of East Devon residents is helping prevent blindness and improve the productivity of people living in Africa.

The generosity of East Devon residents is helping prevent blindness and improve the productivity of people living in Africa.Thanks to cash donations, victims of river blindness and other preventable causes of sight loss are receiving the treatment they need -- before their sight is lost forever.Campaign SightFirst II, led by Lions Clubs around the world, has raised millions in just a few months to relieve misery.In East Devon alone £6,000 has been collected. Across the South West, the figure is a staggering £60,000.The cash will be used to eradicate preventable conditions such as river blindness, which is caused by a worm which breeds in fast-flowing rivers and is spread by the black simulium fly. It is a major cause of blindness in west and central Africa, but is being combated with the drug Mectizan.It is estimated that 18 million people are infected, with 300,000 of them irreversibly blind.As well as causing blindness, the condition creates nodules on the skin and severe itching. De-pigmented spots on the skin are more susceptible to cancer.Charity workers are concerned that children are missing out on an education because they are staying at home to care for their blind parents. Areas hit hard by the infection, have been deserted, leaving 'ghost' villages in some of Africa's most fertile lands.Volunteers are ridding whole communities of the threat of blindness by distributing annual doses of a drug, which makes the female worm temporarily infertile and kills the larvae in the skin and eyes.Neil Rutter, of Seaton, has co-ordinated Campaign SightFirst II across East Devon.Although the appeal officially ended last week, he is hopeful that people will still be willing to donate to the cause."During a recent awareness day at Co-op, in Harbour Road, Seaton, we raised £405.76," he said."The campaign was one of our president Dennis Morgan's charities, Seaton Lions Club raised £2,500."We received half a dozen cheques in response to a Herald article earlier this year."It raised people's awareness. They have come along to a variety of events - to either spend money or give us a donation."Helen Keller first challenged Lions to combat blindness during a convention in 1925.In the time it has taken you to read this story, one child, somewhere in the world, will have gone blind.Half a million more people will have lost their sight by the end of the year.

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