Blinding Trachoma

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, responsible for the visual impairment of about 2.2 million people, of whom 1.2 million are irreversibly blind.

What is Trachoma?

It is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia Trachomatis which causes repeated conjunctivitis, and is spread by close contact with an infected person or through transmission by eye-seeking flies. It is most commonly found in poor, rural communities where people have limited access to clean water and healthcare. Each infection causes scar tissue to develop under the eyelid which eventually causes them to turn inwards. With every blink, their eyelashes scrape the surface of the eye, scarring the cornea and if left untreated, can lead to irreversible blindness. This final stage is known as trichiasis.

What are we doing about it?

The Trust’s Trachoma Initiative is implementing the SAFE Strategy to eliminate the disease in 11 countries across three regions of the Commonwealth.

The SAFE Strategy consists of four components:

surgery
S

Surgery to correct the position of in-turned eyelashes to prevent scarring of the eye

child with cup
A

Antibiotic distribution donated by Pfizer to treat infection

children with water
F

Facial cleanliness promotion to reduce reinfection and to prevent transmission from person to person

environment
E

Environmental improvements to increase access to safe water sources and sanitation

Where We Work

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Africa

Working with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control and led by Sightsavers, our Initiative aims to eliminate the disease entirely in Uganda, Malawi and Kenya and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania. .

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Australia

Working with The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative will support work to eliminate blinding trachoma from Indigenous communities.

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The Pacific

Working with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control and led by The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative aims to eliminate blinding trachoma in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati.

The Trust is working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control in the following countries.

blinding trachoma map Africa Australia The Pacfic Image Map
close

Africa

Working with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control and led by Sightsavers, our Initiative aims to eliminate the disease entirely in Uganda, Malawi and Kenya and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania. .

close

Australia

Working with The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative will support work to eliminate blinding trachoma from Indigenous communities.

close

The Pacific

Working with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control and led by The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative aims to eliminate blinding trachoma in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati.

Our Progress So Far

With the support of our partners, we have…

People

Trained and certified 171 surgeons to perform sight-saving surgery and trained and mobilised almost 14,000 case finders to locate people in need of treatment.

Completed pilots in three locations in Australia, working with local communities to encourage behaviour change initiatives to prevent trachoma.

Knowledge

Launched pilot projects in 45 schools in Kenya to encourage children to wash their faces, and over 25,000 children have been taught about the importance of face washing.

Treatment

Provided 15.5 million antibiotic treatments to people living in high-risk areas across Africa and in Solomon Islands.

Operated on 60,000 people to correct their in-turned eyelashes.

People

Trained and certified 171 surgeons to perform sight-saving surgery and trained and mobilised almost 14,000 case finders to locate people in need of treatment.

Completed pilots in three locations in Australia, working with local communities to encourage behaviour change initiatives to prevent trachoma.

Knowledge

Launched pilot projects in 45 schools in Kenya to encourage children to wash their faces, and over 25,000 children have been taught about the importance of face washing.

Treatment

Provided 15.5 million antibiotic treatments to people living in high-risk areas across Africa and in Solomon Islands.

Operated on 60,000 people to correct their in-turned eyelashes.

Case Study

Annet Mwangule, Uganda

annet mwangule

Annet supports the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative by teaching members of the surrounding rural communities where she lives about how to prevent the spread of trachoma.

“I have been a Village Health Team (VHT) worker for ten years now. As a VHT I must go to the surrounding villages and teach communities about health education. I travel on my bicycle four or five kilometres every day and knock on peoples’ doors to teach them different health issues. I teach people about eye and face washing, and that people should use soap instead of ash, to have a tip-tap (water tap) near to the latrines, and that they should use rubbish bins and dig holes for latrines.

The village voted me to become a VHT. Everyone is very welcoming. They like to hear my advice. I am very happy to be a VHT. I have made lots of friends and it is nice to be part of the community and to help keep everyone healthy."

Case Study

Sérgio Mosse, Mozambique

sergio mosse

For Sérgio Mosse, an ophthalmologic technician in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, trachoma is often both a cause and an effect of poverty.

Poor sanitation and lack of education in disease prevention allow the infection to spread, and once it takes hold it destroys people’s capacity to be economically productive.

As head of external consultations in the provincial hospital in Pemba, Sérgio is at the centre of Mozambique’s efforts to eliminate trachoma. Since 2013 he has helped to train eight other trachoma trichiasis surgeons through The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative. He has a good relationship with the case finders who identify patients in need of treatment, and is well respected within the communities he works in.

"Trachoma affects more women than men, and I want to help these women because they are the ones responsible for looking after the children and their homes," says Sérgio. "We are working with populations who have serious socio-economic problems and problems with water, and low levels of schooling, and this is why we need to help these women (and men) get back on their feet. These are our sisters and brothers."

  • Case Study
    Annet Mwangule, Uganda
    annet mwangule

    Annet supports the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative by teaching members of the surrounding rural communities where she lives about how to prevent the spread of trachoma.

    "I have been a Village Health Team (VHT) worker for ten years now. As a VHT I must go to the surrounding villages and teach communities about health education. I travel on my bicycle four or five kilometres every day and knock on peoples’ doors to teach them different health issues. I teach people about eye and face washing, and that people should use soap instead of ash, to have a tip-tap (water tap) near to the latrines, and that they should use rubbish bins and dig holes for latrines.

    The village voted me to become a VHT. Everyone is very welcoming. They like to hear my advice. I am very happy to be a VHT. I have made lots of friends and it is nice to be part of the community and to help keep everyone healthy."

  • Case Study
    Sérgio Mosse, Mozambique
    Dr Subhadra jalali

    For Sérgio Mosse, an ophthalmologic technician in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, trachoma is often both a cause and an effect of poverty.

    Poor sanitation and lack of education in disease prevention allow the infection to spread, and once it takes hold it destroys people’s capacity to be economically productive.

    As head of external consultations in the provincial hospital in Pemba, Sérgio is at the centre of Mozambique’s efforts to eliminate trachoma. Since 2013 he has helped to train eight other trachoma trichiasis surgeons through The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative. He has a good relationship with the case finders who identify patients in need of treatment, and is well respected within the communities he works in.

    "Trachoma affects more women than men, and I want to help these women because they are the ones responsible for looking after the children and their homes," says Sérgio. "We are working with populations who have serious socio-economic problems and problems with water, and low levels of schooling, and this is why we need to help these women (and men) get back on their feet. These are our sisters and brothers."

End Trachoma

In 2015 the Trust launched the End Trachoma website – which provides updates and progress on the work the Initiative is delivering across the Commonwealth to eliminate blinding trachoma

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