The centrepiece of the Trust’s programme in the southern African country is its initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma: a painful, infectious disease that has robbed people of their sight for hundreds of years.
In 2014, when the Trachoma Initiative started, 8 million people in Malawi were at risk. Today, no one in Malawi now need lose their sight to trachoma thanks to the coordinated efforts and excellent progress of the Ministry of Health and partners, including the International Coalition for Trachoma Control, of which Sightsavers is a member, supported by the Trust.
In the film, the Vice Patron of the Trust, Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex GCVO, who is on visit to Malawi, told viewers: “The Trachoma Initiative has been having unbelievable success in Malawi.”
To reach this point, a major programme of mass drug administration has been carried out to populations at risk; surgery provided for those in the advanced stages of the disease; and improvements initiated to hygiene and sanitation in the affected communities.
The film featured Maria, a 53-year-old mother and grandmother from Kasungu district, having surgery to prevent further damage to her eyes and relieve the pain trachoma inflicts, when repeated infection causes the eyelids to turn inwards and scratch the surface of the eye.
During her trip, HRH the Countess of Wessex will visit Chulu in the Kasungu district, previously a trachoma-endemic region, to see the work of the initiative and how the communities themselves, including women and schoolchildren, have played a big part in making the changes necessary to stop the spread of the disease.
In the BBC film, Sightsavers Senior Project Manager Bright Chiwaula (pictured above left) guided viewers through Maria’s surgery and also explained how children are taught the importance of facial hygiene in preventing trachoma.
If you are in the UK, you can watch the film here – it starts after 19 minutes and 10 seconds.