UK Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt has announced funding of £20 million that will be used to fight blinding trachoma.
The Commonwealth 2018-2020 Fund was announced during the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It will help millions of people in 10 Commonwealth countries to avoid the pain, potential blindness and poverty cycle that trachoma can cause.
The fund will be coordinated by Sightsavers in Africa and the Fred Hollows Foundation in Asia and the Pacific, working with ministries of health, local communities and other members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.
Within two years, the funding will significantly boost trachoma elimination efforts in Kenya, Kiribati, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tonga and Vanuatu. It will also ensure that Papua New Guinea develops its first full trachoma action plan as it aims to eliminate the disease as a public health problem in the country.
The funding will enable:
- More than 5.5 million people to be treated with antibiotics for trachoma
- As many as 76,000 people to receive eyelid surgery for trichiasis, the advanced stages of the disease
- More than 12,000 local people to be trained as volunteers to distribute medication
- Crucial trachoma data to be collected through more than 130 surveys
- Healthy hygiene and sanitation practices to be promoted among communities at risk of trachoma
Sightsavers CEO Dr Caroline Harper said: “Blinding trachoma is a horribly painful disease that has devastating effects on the people it affects and their communities. This new investment will help us make huge strides towards eliminating this ancient scourge from the Commonwealth, and will also encourage other donors to step forward.”
Penny Mordaunt said: “UK aid has already made a huge difference to vulnerable people in countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, freeing families trapped in a cycle of poverty as the disease passes from one generation to the next. In Malawi, for example, four years ago eight million people were at risk of trachoma. Now, no one is. This further commitment will mean millions of people across the Commonwealth will receive vital sight-saving treatment and we will be on course to eliminate this ancient and avoidable disease.”
The new fund will also carry forward the significant progress made in Commonwealth countries since 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative and a network of other organisations.