Commonwealth Fund

This two-year programme accelerated efforts to tackle blinding trachoma across 10 countries.

School children in Tanzania smile for the camera.

Eliminating trachoma in the Commonwealth

In April 2018, leaders of 53 countries gathered in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). They agreed to take action to ensure all citizens in trachoma-endemic countries in the Commonwealth could get the eye care they needed.

As a result of this commitment, with UK aid funding Sightsavers and partners boosted trachoma elimination in 10 countries; Kenya, Kiribati, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tonga, and Vanuatu between 2018 and 2020.

A group of primary school children hold tubes of ointment in the air.
Children at a school in Tanzania after being given eye ointment to protect them against trachoma.

How did the programme work?

The Commonwealth programme followed the World Health Organisation (WHO) treatment strategy for trachoma elimination. This involved using the SAFE strategy, a public health approach to control the spread of trachoma. ‘SAFE’ stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvements.

Sightsavers acted as grant manager of the programme, meaning we allocated the funds according to the needs identified by disease mapping. We also worked alongside local partners and country authorities to implement work in Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania, while our partner, The Fred Hollows Foundation, led work in the Pacific and Pakistan.

A young student has her eyes checked for trachoma.
A student at Mandarawe School in southern Tanzania is screened for trachoma. All images © Sightsavers/Jason J Mulikita

What was achieved

11.7 million
treatments delivered
surgeries for advanced trachoma performed
countries prepared to declare elimination

What's next?

Over a short period of two years we helped countries to strengthen their health systems, so that the fight against trachoma can continue after this funding. This work included training and collaborating closely with staff, improving the use of data and information by introducing standardised field-based data tools, and working towards the incorporation of trachoma data into district and national health information systems.

Our efforts have helped the countries we work in be better prepared to manage any remaining trachoma cases, and to cope with other NTDs. But as a leading infectious cause of blindness around the world, trachoma remains a priority for the global health community. Sightsavers is continuing its drive towards trachoma elimination through major programmes Accelerate and Ascend.

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