United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR) is an African-inspired, US-based nonprofit and tax-exempt organization. Its primary mission is to participate, in partnership with other organizations, in the control and elimination of onchocerciasis as a major public health problem in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UFAR was founded and registered in the US in 2004 by Dr. Daniel Shungu, a former Merck & Co. Inc. employee who, as a Congolese by birth and a naturalized US citizen, was determined to give something back to his native country. The decision to establish UFAR was a logical conclusion from his prior discussions with national health authorities in the DRC and a field trip he undertook to several remote onchocerciasis-endemic villages in the country to see first hand the tragedy of onchocerciasis. UFAR was registered as a tax-exempt organization in the DRC in 2005, and it has now established an office in that country (Kinshasa, DRC).
Located in the heart of Africa, the DRC has a population estimated at 70 million people and occupies an area which is equal to the size to the USA East of the Mississippi River. Approximately 27 million or a third of the population is at risk of getting onchocerciasis, 7 million are actually infected and about 70,000 are blind from the disease.
There are currently 21 CDTI projects in DRC defined on the basis of epidemiological studies. CDTI projects are supported technically, managerially and financially through a partnership arrangement between WHO/APOC the NGDOs and the Minister of Health of the host country. Their long history of field experience makes NGDOs well suited for taking a leadership role in ensuring proper management and implementation of CDTI projects. UFAR became an official member of the NGDO Coalition Group for Onchocerciasis Control in September 2005, and subsequently became the NGDO partner of the CDTI project in the Kasongo region commonly referred to as “CDTI Kasongo”.
CDTI Kasongo is located in Maniema province which is in the East-Southern region of DRC. It's an area of approximately the size of West Virginia, with a population estimated at 1,325,913 people distributed in 2,141 towns and villages. The town of Kasongo located near the source of the mighty Congo River is the most important commercial center in the region, and is the administrative headquarters for the coordinator of CDTI Kasongo. The region comprises 10 health zones (Kasongo, Kunda, Samba, Kabambare, Lusangi, Saramabila, Kampene, Pangi, Kibombo and Tunda) and 165 health centers. There are 10 reference hospitals, about 11 medical doctors and several dozens nurses and nurse supervisors.