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$105 million fund to eliminate trachoma launched at star-studded concert in South Africa

December 2018

Leading philanthropists have set up a $105 million fund to help eliminate blinding eye disease trachoma.

The funding was announced by Richard Branson, via recorded video link, at the Global Citizen concert in Johannesburg on 2 December 2018. The concert, which celebrated the legacy of Nelson Mandela, featured performances by Beyonce, Jay Z and Ed Sheeran.

Branson represents a collaboration of funders who are launching the Accelerate Trachoma Elimination Programme, which is led by Sightsavers and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), The ELMA Foundation UK and Virgin Unite. It builds on an announcement made by the UK government in April 2018 to boost elimination efforts through the Commonwealth 2018-2020 Fund.

Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that can be easily treated. But if it’s not, it causes scar tissue to build up inside the eyelid, meaning the eyelashes turn inwards and scrape painfully against the eye. It has been causing blindness for thousands of years, and is depicted in the hieroglyphs on ancient Nubian tombs. Yet it is now on the verge of being eliminated as a public health problem across the world.

Major progress has been made by governments, donors and international organisations, but more support is needed. This funding will help at least 10 African countries to eliminate trachoma by 2023 and will speed up progress in several others.

Sightsavers CEO Dr Caroline Harper said: “It is now within our grasp to be part of history and stop trachoma in its tracks. This persistent disease blights the world’s poorest communities and traps people into lives of intense pain. Yet it is treatable and preventable.

“Some of the most trusted names in philanthropy are now coming together to make a huge contribution to getting us closer to the finish line.  More is needed, but this will be a key intervention.”

A man smiles, wearing a yellow Sightsavers tshirt.

How the fund will make a difference

As part of the push to eliminate trachoma, the programme will support eye health workers such as Givemore from Zimbabwe, who travels to remote communities to diagnose and treat patients.

Read Givemore’s story

Learn how we’re fighting to eliminate the disease

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Eye surgeon Dr Ndalela examines a child's eyes to check for signs of trachoma.
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