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Where the road ends: the trachoma treatment’s journey

Truck crossing a flooded road

This is a story of the journey of a treatment that travels thousands of miles to reach communities – many of them remote – that need to be protected from trachoma, a painful and potentially blinding disease.

Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) and the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. It starts off as a bacterial infection, similar to conjunctivitis. But if left untreated, it can cause scarring to the eyelid, pulling the eyelashes inward, so that with every blink they scrape against the eye – which can lead to blindness.

However, trachoma can be treated and even eliminated. One of the ways to treat the disease is through the use of antibiotics, which help to control further transmission. But the journey of the treatments to the communities who need them most is complex, and to be effective needs the collaboration of a variety of partners.

From donations, to drug production, to the facilitation of mass drug administration (MDA) by community volunteers providing treatment takes coordination, hard work and commitment between hundreds of people. Sightsavers is proud to be part of this journey.

Did you know these five things about trachoma? Watch our video to find out more about the disease.

Follow the journey by clicking on the white spots below

44 countries
count trachoma as a public health problem
137 million
people are at risk of going blind from trachoma
164.2 million
treatments have been distributed by Sightsavers since 2001

What happens when the treatment reaches Zimbabwe?

Transforming lives

One family treated by ophthalmic nurse Jeremiah was the Muchimbas, who he met during an MDA in Binga, a trachoma-endemic district on the edges of the Kariba Lake in northern Zimbabwe.

Tawanda Muchimba’s children had symptoms of trachoma. His daughter, Blessing, sometimes missed school because of her sore eyes. “I’m so worried about Blessing and for the other kids who are exposed to the infection,” he told us.

The Muchimbas know the devastating effect trachoma can have as their grandmother, Julia, had the advanced form of the infection, known as trachoma trichiasis. At this stage, only surgery can stop the intense pain and potential blindness. Thanks to the support of Sightsavers and the Accelerate programme, Julia has received surgery.

Once people take the treatment, its journey is complete and families like the Muchimbas are protected against the disease. However, to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, the treatment needs to be repeated annually for up to five years.

Thanks to the support of communities, the ministry of health, donors and a network of partners, the Zimbabwe National Trachoma Programme has been able to increase the number of people treated as they move towards their elimination goal.

A medical nurse examines a child's eye while another adult puts a supportive hand on the child's head.

However, there is still work to be done. We need more funding and support to reach everyone affected and rid the world of trachoma.

A medical nurse examines a child's eye while another adult puts a supportive hand on the child's head.

Please help us reach more people and rid the world of trachoma

I would like to make a
one-off
donation to Sightsavers:

could provide eye health screenings for 30 children to identify conditions like trachoma.

could help treat 300 children like Bretty, with the antibiotics needed to end the agony of trachoma.

could help pay for life-changing surgery for two people suffering with trichiasis, the most severe form of trachoma.

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