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Sightsavers CEO gives TED Talk outlining plan to eliminate trachoma

April 2018

Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper pitched an ambitious plan to eliminate trachoma during her talk at the TED 2018 conference in Vancouver on 11 April.

Dr Harper urged philanthropists to support the newly launched Audacious Project, which could help to eliminate the disease – a milestone in the history of human health.

The Audacious Project aims to foster “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas” and is backed by leading non-profit organisations and individuals including Virgin Unite, Skoll Foundation, Dalio Foundation and the Bridgespan Group. It will financially support five projects each year that have the potential to create huge global change.



Nearly two million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired because of trachoma, with a further 182 million at risk of contracting it. In her talk at the conference, Dr Harper said: “Trachoma traps the most vulnerable people in a vicious cycle of poverty. Together we can consign this awful disease to the history books, where it belongs. We’ll free millions of people, today and for generations to come, from this scourge of the world’s poorest communities.”

She explained that the ancient Nubians, who lived thousands of years ago along the Nile river, drew wall paintings depicting the painful effect trachoma has on people’s lives. Today, the disease remains endemic in Sudan and Egypt, as well as 37 other countries worldwide. International efforts mean six countries are now close to eliminating the disease, with a further 18 on the road to elimination, and continued support will mean further progress.

The TED organisation is named after its focus on technology, entertainment and design, but also encompasses science, business, the arts and global issues. It posts its talks online for free, under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading”.

190 million
people worldwide are thought to be at risk from trachoma

We’re so close to eliminating trachoma

Our work to fight the disease
A surgeon operates, using only the light of a window, on a patient to save their sight from trachoma.
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