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Accelerate: the story of 2020

The Accelerate programme has reached the end of a year like no other. Through a global pandemic, we’ve innovated and adapted our trachoma work to keep on track.

December 2020
A man wearing a protective mask presents in front of a blackboard next to a dose poleivers training to antibiotics distributers in a classroom at Government Day Secondary School, Jigawa State

Accelerate is supporting governments across 14 African countries to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. Here are some of this year’s highlights.

 

Woman smiles, wearing traditional jewellery, in hut made from branches

A strong start to 2020

Woman smiles, wearing traditional jewellery, in hut made from branches

In January, we joined the first ever World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day to raise awareness of the group of diseases trachoma belongs to.

Woman gives man tablets on a teaspoon

Delivering antibiotics

In the first three months of 2020, we supported teams in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe to deliver 12.6 million antibiotics to treat and help stop the spread of NTDs.

 

Woman wearing face mask washing hands from a kettle

Reaction to the pandemic

Woman wearing face mask washing hands from a kettle

When COVID-19 struck, field activities were paused. But we immediately started planning ahead. Together with the World Health Organization (WHO), governments and partners, we began developing a risk assessment and mitigation action tool, which would help to safely and quickly resume fieldwork once suspensions were lifted.

Babacar performs surgery wearing protective equipment on a trachoma patient.

Performing in difficult circumstances

In the meantime, in the field, we saw health workers going above and beyond their duties, such as Babacar in Senegal. Under strict COVID-19 safety measures, Babacar continued to perform surgery for trichiasis, the advanced stage of trachoma, on people who came to his clinic.

Surgical team standing together outside the clinic

Celebrating the efforts of health workers

Surgical team standing together outside the clinic

We provided training for more than 30,000 community volunteers this year, including those identifying cases of trachoma and those distributing antibiotics.

A man collects data from trachoma surgeries on his mobile phone.

Accelerate’s innovative technology

We won a Pierre Fabre Foundation award for our TT (trachomatous trichiasis) Tracker app.

Surgeons and surgery patients wearing bandages over their eyes line up for a photograph

Reducing the need for surgery

Surgeons and surgery patients wearing bandages over their eyes line up for a photograph

We heard the good news that our efforts were contributing to the bigger picture, when the WHO announced that the number of people needing surgery to treat the advanced stage of trachoma had declined from 7.6 million in 2002 to 2 million in 2020.

A boy washes his face at a well in Turkana, Kenya. Good hygiene is key to reducing the incidence of Trachoma and other eye conditions.

Remotely, we ramped up our data work

We continued working hard on activities that didn’t need close contact with communities, such as our support to ministries on integrating WASH and NTD data, and bringing together NTD data at the national level.

Two people washing their hands outside.

Back in the field

Two people washing their hands outside.

In July, treatments could be resumed and we supported one million of them in Nigeria . Thanks to our detailed preparation we continued work in the field rapidly, with special safety measures in place.

A man carries out trachoma surgery on a Head Start dummy wearing PPE and optical loupes

Design challenge

We adapted personal protective equipment through a face shield design challenge to find the most feasible way to wear magnifying glasses, a face shield and a mask for health workers assessing eyes for trachoma and carrying out surgery – without the protective layers steaming up.

Investigator taking patient temperature before examination for trachoma

Surveys restart

Investigator taking patient temperature before examination for trachoma

In October in Burkina Faso, we began our first Tropical Data surveys since COVID-19 broke out, with the aim of surveying more than 20,000 people for trachoma.

Surgeon, wearing PPE preforms TT surgery on a woman with the help of his assistant

Adapting to change

Surgeries resumed in Katsina, Nigeria. Each time we resume work we are reviewing all our activities, and using what we learn to adapt work where needed in other areas and countries.

A young woman, wearing a mask, sits on a rug in front of her house by her walking stick

Looking ahead to 2021

A young woman, wearing a mask, sits on a rug in front of her house by her walking stick

We close the year feeling optimistic, with all the countries Accelerate supports ready to continue their journeys towards eliminating trachoma.

Together, we are just a few years away from eliminating this ancient disease.

Explore the journey of Accelerate from its inception through maps and images in our story map here.

Find out more about the Accelerate programme

About Accelerate
A young boy is measured against a dose pole.

With thanks

A young boy is measured against a dose pole.

We’d like to thank every individual supporter and partner organisation involved in trachoma elimination in 2020. We are especially grateful to the funders of Accelerate:
Children's Investment Fund Foundation
The ELMA Foundation
UK aid
Virgin Unite
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper smiles alongside two colleagues. She's holding a pen. In the background are some brightly lit skyscrapers.
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Samson Lokele in Kenya.
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