The WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020) has released its plan of action to ensure those most affected by blinding diseases such as trachoma are not left behind.
The Towards 2020 plan outlines what needs to be done to scale up programmes and strengthen health systems to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Towards 2020 is an important step in the push to eliminate trachoma by 2020, driving forward the successes of the past few years and ensuring that efforts are focused to build an even broader coalition of funders and attract technical partners from other sectors.
Globally, 200 million people are still at risk of blindness from trachoma. In total, 12.4 million children have active trachoma, 1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired from the disease, and 3.2 million people need surgery to avoid blindness. And all this is caused from something that is easily preventable and treatable.
As Sightsavers moves towards an elimination target of 2020, we now have an accurate understanding of where trachoma exists, how to treat it, and at what cost.
We already have many of the tools available to eliminate trachoma. There are a series of World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed programmatic interventions known as SAFE, as well as the new WHO-led Tropical Data initiative that will continue to be a platform for baseline mapping. We also have impact and surveillance surveys for trachoma, and soon for other endemic diseases, and we have available the antibiotics necessary to reach the point of elimination, with more than 500 million doses already distributed.
For investors, it is a simple and cost effective proposition with huge returns on investment, as programmatic interventions including health education, and improved access to water and sanitation have impact far beyond ‘trachoma-specific’ goals.
Sightsavers’ Director of NTDs Simon Bush said: “Thanks to the Global Trachoma Mapping Project, data has never been better and we know where the disease is endemic. We now need to make sure that this data is utilised quickly to ensure that programmatic decisions are made of where to focus attention, so that no country or region is neglected, and that the full WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy is delivered where it is needed, to achieve the global elimination of trachoma.”
With less than four years to go, national governments and non-governmental organisations are uniting like never before to implement SAFE.
For more information, visit the GET2020 website.