Short draws attention to Africa's scourge of river blindness

River blindness is the fourth most common cause of blindness in the world. Seventeen million Africans are infected with the disease. And yet, it can easily be be controlled. A relatively simple treatment - a tablet taken annually - can stop the disease in its tracks.

A week-long series of international meetings began in Liverpool yesterday to address the problems of river blindness, in the hope of extending the existing control programme.

The programme is already one of the World Health Organisation's largest projects. Eleven African countries form part of the programme; 19 more, which are also affected by river blindness, do not.

Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, opened an exhibition by the prize-winning photographer Tom Stoddart showing the impact of the disease and the efforts to contain it.

Ms Short said the campaign was "an example of what can be achieved when there is a clear focus, determined effort and true partnership".

The exhibition is organised by the charity, Sight Savers International, which funded early research into the project.

- Steve Crawshaw

1 Sight Savers River Blindness Exhibition, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral until 14 December.

1 Sight Savers International, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH15 4BX. 01444 412424