Sightsavers is leading the Charge against Trachoma

Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that causes blindness in a most painful manner. With no treatment, scar tissues forms under the eyelid causing the eye lids to invert and eyelashes rub painfully against the cornea resulting in eventual blindness. According to Sightsavers, women in Africa with the eye disease will often wear tweezers on a chain around their neck and put out their eyelashes to find relief, which is only temporary.


The eye disease has been traced back to ancient Egypt. 182 million people are at risk for going blind and despite its treatability trachoma is still damaging the ability to learn and eliminating opportunity for employment. There is a collaborative effort in place to eliminate the eye disease and it is quickly gathering speed. Oman eliminated the problem in 2012, with WHO (World Health Organization) validation and in 2016, Morocco, Cambodia and Mexico did the same. There are six more countries on the verge of eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.


Eliminating the eye disease takes a collaborative effort including INGOs such as Sightsavers, pharmaceutical companies, donors, communities and health Ministries. The International Coalition for Trachoma Control and other individuals and organizations are working together with a single strategy in mind to eliminate such a disease. The WHO has endorsed the SAFE program and the acronym stands for surgery, antibiotics (donated by Pfizer), facial cleanliness and environmental improvement. Countries where the eye problem runs rampant must have access to the resources it takes to implement the strategy.


The SAFE program has been making progress and has demonstrated the program is eliminating trachoma. The Tropical Data Service has been collecting data and supports national Health Ministries data collection services regarding areas where the program has been successful. Using smart phone technology, data is collected and transmitted quickly which means the analytical data can be applied quicker by the Health Ministries. This is most helpful in remote areas of the world where environmental conditions are difficult at best.


At the TED2018 conference one of the revelations was the Audacious Project and their choice of trachoma elimination. They recognize the work that has been completed in the past and the only thing standing between the disease and elimination is bringing the resources to where they are needed. Sightsavers will coordinate a funding effort in Africa. The effort, Commonwealth 2018-2020, will provide funding to help bring resources to places they are most needed.