GLOBAL HEALTH FRONTIERS: DARK FOREST, BLACK FLY looks at the devastating disease of river blindness and how scientists and health workers are achieving remarkable success in the fight to eradicate it in Latin America and Africa.
Caused by microscopic worms that migrate under the skin, leading to intense itching and eventual loss of sight, river blindness is transmitted by small black flies that breed in fast-flowing rivers and streams. Although drug research has made it possible to control river blindness and even eliminate it, the threat of its return still exists.
Focusing on Uganda, the documentary explores that country’s unique decision to eliminate the disease entirely, using its experienced vector control teams to attack the flies where they breed. This approach could lead other African countries to follow its example. But in Uganda’s war-ravaged north, where basic health services have been virtually non-existent for decades, river blindness is at its worst. Even children are losing their sight and Uganda faces its biggest challenge yet in beating the disease.
Using compelling animated sequences to illustrate how the parasite attacks the body and profiles of the work being done in Uganda and at The Carter Center in the U.S., DARK FOREST, BLACK FLY explores the problem and its solutions. Central figures in the story include: Christopher Ruzaza, a fly specialist with Uganda’s Ministry of Health; Dr. Frank Richards, the director of The Carter Center’s River Blindness Program; and Moses Katabarwa, a Ugandan parasitologist with The Carter Center who has made eliminating the disease his life’s work. Each of these characters drive the story with their field work and insights, showing how Uganda is making solid progress through mass treatments of drugs and by clearing out flies one “hot spot” at a time.