blinding trachoma

Blinding Trachoma

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, responsible for the visual impairment of about 1.9 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 12 countries across two 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 Malawi and Uganda and make significant advances towards elimination in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

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Australia

Working with The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative supported work towards eliminating 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 Malawi and Uganda and make significant advances towards elimination in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

close

Australia

Working with The Fred Hollows Foundation, our Initiative supported work towards eliminating 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 268 surgeons to perform sight-saving surgery and trained and mobilised almost 40,000 case finders to locate people in need of treatment.

Knowledge

Taught 50,000 students across 116 schools in Kenya about the importance of face washing.

Treatment

Provided 20.7 million vital antibiotic treatments to people living in high-risk areas across Africa and the Pacific.

Provided surgery to 83,600 people to correct their in-turned eyelashes.

People

Trained and certified 268 surgeons to perform sight-saving surgery and trained and mobilised almost 40,000 case finders to locate people in need of treatment.

Knowledge

Taught 50,000 students across 116 schools in Kenya about the importance of face washing.

Treatment

Provided 20.7 million vital antibiotic treatments to people living in high-risk areas across Africa and the Pacific.

Provided surgery to 83,600 people to correct their in-turned eyelashes.

Case Study

Gilbert Baayemda

Gilbert Baayemda

Gilbert is a Programme Officer for the Ugandan Ministry of Health and has worked on the country’s trachoma elimination programme for three years. When he started his job, trachoma was endemic in 38 districts across the country. Now, thanks to the work of the Trachoma Initiative and its partners, there are only two remaining endemic districts.

He is hopeful the country will achieve elimination. Latrine use in Karamoja has improved hugely, and increased school attendance, thanks to the government increasing access to free education, has meant that health education messages are passed on from children to their communities.

Gilbert says he is proud to be working on the programme, "the support that reaches even the poorest of the poor is unprecedented. The trachoma programme is completely free – people are screened, treated, given medication and follow up all for free. This is very unusual. I enjoy the close collaboration of the partners involved in the programme, and I am motivated by the results. It’s exciting to see the end in sight".

Case Study

Dr Ndalela, Zambia

Dr Ndalela, Uganda

Dr Ndalela is an eye doctor who travels across Zambia by motorbike, visiting the remotest villages to treat communities affected by trachoma, villages that otherwise have little or no access to medical services.

Ndalela has been practising ophthalmology for eight years and is now the head of the eye department at Senanga Health Clinic in western Zambia. He is the only surgeon in the region who can carry out complicated procedures.

Over the years he has built relationships with village elders, allowing him to carry out examinations and treat those who live in the region. For Ndalela, it isn’t just about treating people with trachoma, it’s about helping the communities. "The children who can't see or get help from anyone else can almost never go to school," he says, going on to explain that without an education, they will be trapped in a cycle of poverty.

A huge part of what keeps him motivated, Ndalela says, is the gratitude of the people he helps. Sometimes the parents of children whose sight he has saved will bring him food and gifts as a thank you. But he tells them that he doesn’t need payment, he is just happy he can help. "It's my calling, rather than a job," he says.

  • Case Study
    Gilbert Baayemda
    Gilbert Baayemda

    Gilbert is a Programme Officer for the Ugandan Ministry of Health and has worked on the country’s trachoma elimination programme for three years. When he started his job, trachoma was endemic in 38 districts across the country. Now, thanks to the work of the Trachoma Initiative and its partners, there are only two remaining endemic districts.

    He is hopeful the country will achieve elimination. Latrine use in Karamoja has improved hugely, and increased school attendance, thanks to the government increasing access to free education, has meant that health education messages are passed on from children to their communities.

    Gilbert says he is proud to be working on the programme, "the support that reaches even the poorest of the poor is unprecedented. The trachoma programme is completely free – people are screened, treated, given medication and follow up all for free. This is very unusual. I enjoy the close collaboration of the partners involved in the programme, and I am motivated by the results. It’s exciting to see the end in sight".

  • Case Study
    Dr Ndalela, Uganda
    Dr Ndalela, Uganda

    Dr Ndalela is an eye doctor who travels across Zambia by motorbike, visiting the remotest villages to treat communities affected by trachoma, villages that otherwise have little or no access to medical services.

    Ndalela has been practising ophthalmology for eight years and is now the head of the eye department at Senanga Health Clinic in western Zambia. He is the only surgeon in the region who can carry out complicated procedures.

    Over the years he has built relationships with village elders, allowing him to carry out examinations and treat those who live in the region. For Ndalela, it isn’t just about treating people with trachoma, it’s about helping the communities. "The children who can't see or get help from anyone else can almost never go to school," he says, going on to explain that without an education, they will be trapped in a cycle of poverty.

    A huge part of what keeps him motivated, Ndalela says, is the gratitude of the people he helps. Sometimes the parents of children whose sight he has saved will bring him food and gifts as a thank you. But he tells them that he doesn’t need payment, he is just happy he can help. "It's my calling, rather than a job," he says.

End Trachoma

Find out more on the work the Initiative is delivering across the Commonwealth to eliminate blinding trachoma.

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