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Tanzanian government convenes global partners working to eliminate blinding disease across the country
Haita with her family after receiving trichiasis surgery.

Tanzanian government convenes global partners working to eliminate blinding disease across the country

Today (27 July 2016), the United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, the United Kingdom Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust) will join with partners to discuss joint efforts to eliminate blinding trachoma in Tanzania.

Trachoma is largest infectious cause of blindness in the world. It is estimated that 12.5 million people live at risk of the disease in Tanzania. It is caused by a bacterium called chlamydia trachomatis and it affects both children and adults. If left untreated trachoma causes the eye lashes to turn inwards and scratch the outer eye causing extreme pain, and eventually can lead to irreversible blindness. Those with the advanced stages of the disease need surgery to correct their in-turned eyelashes and prevent further damage to the eye.

In reviewing the progress of this important collaboration to date, and next steps required to reach elimination, the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, DFID and the Trust will meet with representatives from organisations involved in the elimination of blinding trachoma in Tanzania. Invited guests include members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control such as Sightsavers and Helen Keller International, the END Fund and the Conrad N Hilton Foundation.

Vel Gnanendran, Head of the Department for International Development Tanzania will join Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, and Dr Neema Rusibamayila to speak at the event.

The United Republic of Tanzania Government has been making strong efforts to tackle blinding trachoma since 1999. In 2014, they began working with DFID, the Trust, the END Fund, the Conrad N Hilton Foundation, and other partners to combat the infectious eye disease, by adopting the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended SAFE strategy of Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Hygiene.

Dr Neema Rusibamayila, Director of Preventative Services at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, said:

Tanzania is committed to the elimination of blinding trachoma. Today we are celebrating the tremendous support from DFID and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. In Tanzania, by adopting the WHO recommended SAFE Strategy, trachoma control interventions are well coordinated under the Neglected Tropical Disease Control Programme which has rationalised better linkages and use of available resources. Over the past twelve months a total of 5563 trachiasis surgeries have been performed. Moreover, through this great collaboration the country is now supporting the delivery of behavioural change initiatives in 7 districts in Tanzania in line with National Sanitation Strategy.

A £39.4 million DFID SAFE programme is currently active in Chad, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia and is part of a WHO led global push to eliminate trachoma and other NTD’s in countries where the diseases are most prevalent by 2020. As well as providing surgery to those in need, hygiene and sanitation practices, which are key to stopping the spread of infection, will be tested across Tanzania over the next two years.

Vel Gnanendra, Head of DFID Tanzania, said:

We welcome the opportunity to celebrate this partnership that is helping Tanzania tackle trachoma; preventing pain, suffering and people falling into poverty. At the heart of this is strong leadership and commitment from the Government of Tanzania. By working together we can beat this disease, transforming the lives of millions of people for years to come.

Since 2015, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative has supported the Tanzanian government in its efforts to eliminate blinding trachoma. By working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), including Helen Keller International who is coordinating the work in Tanzania, the Initiative is supporting surgery to correct people’s in-turned eyelashes and facial cleanliness and environmental hygiene interventions. Last year, the Initiative trained more than 430 case workers who work in the community to find people affected by the eye disease, trained eight trachoma surgeons and treated around 1,500 people.

Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said:

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is delighted to support this meeting which brings together the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the UK’s Department for International Development and partners involved in the important work underway to ensure people in Tanzania will no longer suffer pain from or lose their sight as a result of blinding trachoma. It is only by working in collaboration with the government, other donors, NGOs, communities and individuals that we can end trachoma. I’m pleased that today we have the opportunity to review our progress to date and see where we can strengthen efforts in order to fully consign this painful, debilitating disease to history.

For more information please visit:  www.endtrachoma.org