It’s one of the main infectious causes of vision loss and nearly 182 million people are at-risk of becoming infected with the disease. According to Sightsavers, Trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye, impacts the poorest communities, but it could be eliminated.
Millions of people live in areas where trachoma is endemic. Trachoma spreads in communities where sanitary conditions are precarious due to limited access to drinking water. The first symptoms are those of a common conjunctivitis: burning in the eyes, tearing, and redness. If left untreated, the infection causes scars to the conjunctiva until the eyelashes are turned back into the inside of the eyelid.
Trachoma is estimated to cause severe hypo-vision in 2.2 million people, and Sightsavers says over half of them become blind. The first symptoms manifest themselves with redness , photo-sensitivity, strong burning, tearing and swelling of the eyelids. In a few weeks the conjunctival follicles become inflamed and the capillary vessels invade the cornea.
In countries like Africa, it is children who have become healthy carriers of the infection, and then spread this relapsing conjunctivitis to parents, siblings, and friends.
Trachoma affects mostly women, preventing them from working and taking care of themselves and their families. The disease compromises vision, which is fundamental for the socio-economic wellbeing of people, trapping them in the cycle of poverty. Among the countries in the world where trachoma is even more widespread is Ethiopia.
Collaboration To Control Trachoma
Sightsavers, along with several other alliances, and members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control have banded together to promote a new protocol called the SAFE strategy. SAFE is an acronym which means: surgery of trichiasis (Surgery), distribution of antibiotics to treat the infection (Antibiotics), education in appropriate cleaning and facial hygiene (Facial cleanliness), and the improvement of environmental conditions (Environmental improvement). This strategy works and has been endorsed by the World Health Organization.
This program has already achieved important results and field workers, using smartphones, collect and relay the information back to home offices for data analysis. But the data proves that it’s working.
Sightsavers also revealed, at a TED 2018 event, a new philanthropy project for trachoma elimination called the Audacious Project. With the support of philanthropists and various not-for-profit organizations, the Audacious Project focuses its efforts on a global change. In schools, students are being educated, says Sightsavers reps, about hygiene rules that prevent the spread of this disease, and they look to continue to spread this important audacious program.