As much as needed, as long as needed
Staying the course is what it has taken to see River Blindness, a remote neglected tropical disease carried by the bites of black flies, slowly becoming a disease of the past.
In 1987, Merck committed to donate Mectizan – as much as needed, for as long as needed – with the goal to help eliminate river blindness. To celebrate the Mectizan Donation Program‘s 35th anniversary we went through our archives of footage, some filmed by us, some by scientists many years ago, and worked with a South African graphics artist to tell the story of 35 years of progress towards eliminating one of the most robust diseases known to mankind.
With a bespoke composed soundtrack and in-house voice-over, we managed condense 35 years into a powerful 3 and a half minutes!
The film was shown at the annual Mectizan Expert Committee meeting in Malawi in 2022, and since was sent out by MSD CEO Rob Davis to all their staff.
Nasarawa State: Beyond Elimination
This film looks at the success in overcoming a crippling disease that has besieged Nigeria, and large parts of Africa for decades. Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness causes unbearable itching and ultimately blindness to the point where river-side communities were abandoned. Thanks to the dedication of people like Nasarawa State Coordinator for Neglected Tropical Diseases, Jacob Righain, the support of NGO partners The Carter Center and donation of the treating drug Mectizan by Merck & Co., local communities have been empowered to break the transmission of river blindness and create a platform for future disease interventions.
Filming just before the COVID-19 kicked in, we worked with a talented Nigerian crew to get right to the heart of the story. We edited back in the UK and created a bespoke soundtrack to help transport the viewer deeper in to the world of neglected tropical diseases.
It forms part of a wider suite of films used in different ways that have told the MDP story over the years, collaborating with multiple global partners from the Nigerian Ministry of Health and local government, to Sightsavers, the Carter Center and other key players in the game to get full engagement from the offset.
Kebbi State: The Power of Partnership
This film looks at the power of partnership through the lens of the truly symbiotic relationship that exists between NGOs and the Nigerian government as they strive to eliminate River Blindness.
River blindness is a crippling disease that affects people who live at the margins of society, where they don’t have access to clean water, proper medical care or the preventative treatment Mectizan that is donated by Merck.
The work of non-governmental organisations like Sightsavers is key to helping strengthen national health systems in their response to neglected tropical diseases.
Kate McCoy from Sightsavers said of this film: “It’s absolutely brilliant, the footage is stunning and the partnerships and different players in delivering oncho work come across so well – congrats!”
Stamp Out Onchocerciasis!
Getting people to stand up and take action is at the core of the Mectizan Donation Program‘s remit – especially when the intended audience are Ministers of Health in African countries. This is the first of a series of films intended to get key influencers to commit to putting their name to a 30 year-long elimination programme – ridding Africa of River Blindness or onchocerciasis. If we work together we can stamp out oncho!
We used a local fixer to go in search of stories that were set up in advance of our shooting producer director’s arrival. We then worked with a wonderful local photographer and camera assistant to create a more integrated team and integrate more in to remote and challenging settings.
It started off a relationship with Cameroon and Nigeria that continues to this day, adding to the list of the many African countries that we have ties with.
Celebrating the Billionth Treatment for NTDs Event
On the 13th December 2017 the billionth treatment for neglected tropical diseases was celebrated across the world.
Sightsavers hosted events in Cambridge, UK and Abuja, Nigeria as well as distributing a powerful film we made on the backstory of river blindness in 7 other countries. We focussed on three characters in the film, a blind grandfather, his sighted daughter and a community drug distributor, the life-line of mass drug administrations that have been happening across the world for the past 7 years.
We provided not only the film but a live-stream between Cambridge and Abuja allowing the minister of health to talk to delegates in the UK and giving them a chance to meet the community drug distributor live on screen. We also covered the event itself to share with stakeholders, marking a truly global day in the fight against NTDs and in celebration of effective collaboration between parties across the world.
Celebrating The Billionth Treatment for River Blindness
Sightsavers delivers the one billionth treatment for River Blindness, a parasite-borne condition that leads to severe disability and the destruction of entire communities. Because of mass treatment programmes like those run by Sightsavers, young children like Dorcas can live a very different life to her grandfather, who was made blind by river blindness.
Our team was was there to witness this incredible moment, reminding us how incredibly important this work is.