The number of people requiring surgery to treat severe cases of trachoma, the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, has declined from 7.6 million in 2002 to 2 million in 2020.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published their most up-to-date statistics on trachoma around the world on 24 July. The report also shows an overall reduction of 91% in trachoma prevalence since 2002 – a decline from over 1.5 billion to 136.9 million as of May 2020.
Trachomatous trichiasis, also known as TT, is the later stage of trachoma, a painful and debilitating eye condition that starts as an infection like conjunctivitis. If left untreated, it can cause intense discomfort in the eyes, preventing people from carrying out their daily activities. In more severe cases it can lead to irreversible blindness.
As part of Accelerate, an ambitious project to speed up progress toward the elimination of trachoma, Sightsavers is tackling the disease in 14 African countries alongside major global health organisations and philanthropists including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Virgin Unite.
The report highlights that in 2019, 95.2 million people around the world received antibiotics for trachoma and more than 90,000 people were treated with surgery for TT.
Trachoma spreads where access to clean running water and other sanitation is scarce, but it can be treated and prevented effectively using the SAFE strategy (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements). This combined approach of surgical interventions and encouraging behavioural changes has been successful at protecting communities in the countries where we work.
Sightsavers has also developed a mobile phone app, the TT Tracker, which is helping to ensure TT patients in rural areas, where communities are far from health facilities, receive the follow-up care they need post-surgery.
The full trachoma report from the WHO can be found here.