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.
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.
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.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which took place in London last week, leaders agreed to take action to ensure all citizens have access to eye care.
The Commonwealth 2018-2020 Fund will help millions of people to avoid the pain, blindness and poverty that trachoma can cause.
Six leading organisations have come together under the banner ‘Vision for the Commonwealth’ to ask Commonwealth leaders to bring eye care to all.