Patrick Ndongmo is the Technical Advisor for Onchocerciasis (river blindness) for UK aid’s flagship neglected tropical disease (NTD) programme, Ascend West and Central Africa. Patrick provides technical support for the control and elimination of river blindness in eight West African countries under the programme. River blindness is one of the leading causes of infectious blindness globally, with more than 200 million people living in at risk areas worldwide. The disease is spread by the bite of female blackflies, which breed in fast flowing rivers and streams.
Patrick’s leadership qualities are already evident in the impact he’s had on river blindness elimination activities in the first year of the programme. Patrick is a true diplomat, able to influence others successfully. He engages on a personal level around key issues to make sure everyone feels listened to and included, as well as leading group debate and consensus on technical issues. He has become a first point of call for many of the Sightsavers country offices he supports, as well as ministries of health and in-country partners.
“I became interested in river blindness (onchocerciasis) elimination when I discovered, despite over 15 years of treatment to communities in Southwest Cameroon, the area remained endemic.
While other countries were moving closer to elimination, I helped design a study to understand why Cameroon was not making the same progress. Our study demonstrated that the persistence of river blindness was a result of programmatic issues and a completely different transmission profile.
As Onchocerciasis Technical Adviser for Ascend West and Central Africa, I’m excited to use my expertise and support countries in their efforts towards the elimination of this avoidable blinding disease.”
Patrick is a member of several national river blindness elimination committees, which are made up of expert panels. In addition to Patrick’s role as technical advisor, he is also supporting research for the control and elimination of river blindness.
Patrick is constantly looking for shared learning between different countries and programmes, and his efforts are felt beyond the Ascend West and Central Africa programme. Collaborating with the Sightsavers’ Global Technical Lead for river blindness, Patrick took learning and insights from the Onchocerciasis Elimination Mapping project, and applied these to successfully plan and support programme activities in Liberia and Guinea. He demonstrated a high level of leadership and innovation in his involvement with river blindness breeding site assessment surveys in Liberia at the end of January 2020.
Patrick worked alongside the Liberian Ministry of Health and NTD team to develop a new approach, using mobile data collection tools for the first time at this scale for mapping blackfly breeding sites. He developed the training package and accompanied the teams on their initial data collection trips to ensure the process went smoothly. These surveys will help bring Liberia closer to elimination. Patrick has a strong research background from his previous roles and brings that experience and critical thinking to the programme with significant results. Patrick’s also a member of the Ascend Technical Support Forum sharing his expertise with the wider technical team.
He has demonstrated strong leadership skills from the outset with his clear and strong communication skills, by being inclusive and approachable, and authentic in his working style. Patrick has a natural ability to focus on both the detail and the bigger picture. Personable in nature, he is much liked and respected with his close colleagues and beyond. He is a true asset to the team and has demonstrated a personal commitment towards the elimination of river blindness. His leadership and continued efforts are worthy of being recognised as a future leader and an eye health hero.