Trachoma is a potentially blinding eye infection, which has been eliminated in most developed countries. It is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness, and tends to affect the poorest communities in the developing world.
Today, more than two million people are either blind or suffer from a very painful disability because of trachoma. Every 15 minutes someone goes blind from this disease*.
*estimates about the exact burden of a disease like trachoma vary, due to uncertainty of data. A complete list of the sources Sightsavers uses to substantiate our facts and figures can be found here.
The beginning of the end for trachoma
Global efforts to eliminate trachoma have taken an ambitious step forward as mapping of the disease begins this week in Ethiopia. The survey aims to examine four million people in over 30 countries by March 2015 to identify where people are living at risk from this neglected tropical disease (NTD) and where treatment programmes are needed.
Key to the mapping process are specially trained opthalmic nurses who visit each household in the survey area to collect information about the blinding disease. Using an app installed on a mobile device, the monitors can instantly upload results to the open-access disease maps via www.trachomaatlas.org which will chart the mapping process.
As well as examining the eyes of each household member monitors also provide antibiotics to anyone showing signs of the infection, and refer those who cannot be treated in this way for surgery. Each household member will also be asked questions about their sanitation provision – such as where they collect their water, and the kind of toilet they use. The International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) and The Fred Hollows Foundation are supporting Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health to deliver the programme in Ethiopia.
Trachoma affects more than 21 million people but it is estimated that an additional 180 million people worldwide live in areas where trachoma is highly prevalent. Once the data has been collected the scale of the problem can be understood and resources can be mobilised to end this terrible blinding condition.
Supported by the UK government (DFID), a consortium of the International Trachoma Initiative, other NGOs and academic institutions, led by Sightsavers, will carry out the mapping in more than 30 of the world’s poorest countries in the next three years.