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Progress made to trachoma elimination

Sightsavers works to treat and prevent trachoma in 12 Commonwealth countries

12 Mar 2018 by Emily McCormick

International eye care charity Sightsavers is celebrating the progress that itself and its partners have made in eliminating trachoma in 12 Commonwealth countries.

Reflecting on its achievements on Commonwealth Day today (12 March), Sightsavers highlighted that 182 million people are at risk of going blind because of trachoma globally, while 1.9 million people are already blind or visually impaired because of it.

Trachoma, which is a treatable eye disease associated with a lack of access to clean water and soap, is particularly prevalent in the Commonwealth, where 85 million people are affected by poor eye health.

Progress in Uganda

Sightsavers and its partners have established a Trachoma Initiative in 12 Commonwealth countries where it is working to eliminate the blinding disease.

It can be treated through antibiotics, or surgery in more severe cases, but can cause irreversible blindness if left to develop.

Over the last four years in Uganda, the initiative has worked in 33 districts and provided sight-saving surgery to nearly 27,000 people, trained 65 surgeons, and mobilised nearly 5000 case finders who work to identify those in need of treatment.

Before the initiative was established, an estimated 10 million Ugandans were at risk of trachoma. However, the Ugandan Ministry of Health now believes that under 300,000 people are at risk of the disease. As a result, Uganda is on track to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem by 2020.

Gender differences

Data shows that trachoma is four times more likely to affect women than men, which Sightsavers explained is because women are often the ones who perform tasks such as laundry and taking care of sick family members, which increased their likelihood of being exposed to the infection.

However, Sightsavers highlights that many women are also pivotal in fighting trachoma. 

This includes ophthalmic clinical officer, Esther Anyango (pictured), who performs surgery on people who have trichiasis, an advanced form of trachoma.
Ms Anyango said: “We used to see a lot of people with trachoma, but now because more surgeons have been trained, we see the numbers reducing. We counsel people who are scared of having an operation and encourage people who have been treated for trachoma through surgery to spread the good news.”
The Trachoma Initiative is funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. In Uganda, it works in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Sightsavers, the Carter Centre, RTI, Water Missions Uganda, World Vision and the World Health Organisation.

Image credit: Sightsavers