Since vector control began in 1975, waves of Simulium sirbanum and S. damnosum s.str., the principal vectors of severe blinding onchocerciasis in the West African savannas, have reinvaded treated rivers inside the original boundaries of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in West Africa. Larviciding of potential source breeding sites has shown that these `savanna' species are capable of travelling and carrying Onchocerca infection for at least 500 km northeastwards with the monsoon winds in the early rainy season. Vector control has, therefore, been extended progressively westwards. In 1984 the Programme embarked on a major western extension into Guinea, Sierra Leone, western Mali, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. The transmission resulting from the reinvasion of northern Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso has been reduced by over 95%, but eastern Mali has proved more difficult to protect because of sources in both Guinea and Sierra Leone. Rivers in Sierra Leone were treated for the first time in 1989 and biting and transmission rates in Sierra Leone and Guinea fell by over 90%. Because of treatment problems in some complex rapids and mountainous areas, flies still reinvaded Mali, though biting rates were approximately 70% lower than those recorded before anti-reinvasion treatments started. It was concluded that transmission in eastern Mali has now been reduced to the levels required to control onchocerciasis.