Initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma in Malawi launches

Initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma in Malawi launches

Lilongwe, Malawi: Today the Trust is delighted to launch its Trachoma Initiative in Malawi, where it will be working with the Malawian government and members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) to fully eliminate blinding trachoma across the country by early 2019.

Of the 229 million people living in trachoma endemic districts globally, about 9.5 million of them live in Malawi. Trachoma slowly and painfully robs people of their sight, as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causes irreversible blindness. Women, traditionally the caretakers of the home, are almost twice as likely as men to develop blinding trachoma.

Between 2014 and 2019, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative plans to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem in Malawi and Kenya and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda. It will also tackle the disease in Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and Australia. The Initiative is based on a large-scale programme of surgery, antibiotic distribution, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement initiatives. This tried and tested strategy, knows as SAFE, is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and has already yielded strong results in other Commonwealth countries such as Ghana.

The Trachoma Initiative in Malawi is being co-ordinated by Sightsavers and delivered by ICTC members Sightsavers, AMREF Health Africa, Water Aid, CBM and Blantyre Institute of Community Ophthalmology alongside other local implementing agencies comprising of civil society, faith based organisations and county government health ministries.

By 2019, the Initiative will:
  • Target 17 districts.
  • Provide over 5,900 people with surgery for advanced trachoma.
  • Distribute antibiotic treatment to over eight million people.
  • Improve community health messages on good hygiene and sanitation practices.
  • Work at district, national and global level to improve access to safe water sources and sanitation in the programme areas.

The Initiative was formally launched in Kenya earlier this month.