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The Trachoma Initiative

This five-year programme, funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, provided 26.6 million antibiotic eye treatments and 102,400 sight-saving operations to help eliminate trachoma in seven countries.

An eye health worker in Malawi checks a woman's eyes for signs of trachoma.

What we’ve learned from the Trachoma Initiative

Read the report (pdf)

How did the programme work?

The Trachoma Initiative, which began in 2014,  has supported ministries of health to fight trachoma by following the SAFE strategy, a four-pronged approach approved by the World Health Organization.

The SAFE acronym stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements: this has proven to be the most effective way of ridding communities of trachoma.

The programme ran in seven African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

A key part of the programme has been making sure local health care providers have the skills, resources and staff to prevent trachoma, now and in the future, so they can respond to cases should new outbreaks occur.

A schoolboy splashes water on his face to learn about facewashing, as part of a SAFE initiative in Senegal.

SAFE: a strategy to control trachoma

This public health approach covers four methods used to stop the spread of the disease.

More about SAFE

What did the programme achieve?

An eye surgeon dressed in green scrubs.

Training eye health staff

The Trachoma Initiative has trained local health workers to improve their skills. Surgeons have received training and certification, while case finders have learned to diagnose trachoma.

A close-up of a man holding some paperwork.

Developing expertise

The programme has developed new approaches that can be used in future to ensure the SAFE strategy continues to be effective, and the impact will be felt long after the programme ends.

An eye health worker examines a woman's eyes to check for signs of trachoma.

Progress against NTDs

All countries who took part have made strides towards eliminating trachoma. Malawi is in a two-year surveillance period, after which WHO will confirm it has eliminated the disease.

How the initiative has changed lives

Looking to the future

Many countries are working towards eliminating trachoma, but sustained, high-quality programmes are needed to enable them to achieve this.

The insight provided by the Trachoma Initiative is helping us to understand what works when it comes to tackling the disease, and will be a vital source of information as countries continue on the path towards trachoma elimination.

This video explains more about the work of the Trachoma Initiative.

Want to learn about our work on NTDs?

Neglected tropical diseases

Which organisations were involved?

Sightsavers coordinated the initiative on behalf of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control, collaborating with ministries of health, affected communities, the UK aid-funded DFID SAFE programme (in Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia) and a network of other partners and programmes.

Implementing partners include ITI, The Fred Hollows Foundation, WaterAid, RTI International, Operation Eyesight, Light for The World, John Hopkins, Helen Keller International, CBM, The Carter Center, AMREF and KCCO.

A child washes their face.

More about trachoma

Mercia laughs and celebrates with a trachoma surgery patient after her bandages have been removed.
Sightsavers Reports

Mercia’s story

Mercia, from Mozambique, has worked at Sightsavers for nine years, and is determined to make sure everyone can get good-quality eye care.

Three siblings from Zambia smile following their trachoma treatment.
Sightsavers Reports

With your help, we’ve reached the unreachable in Zambia

Last year, during a visit to western Zambia, we met brothers Sililo and Maimbolwa, and their sister Inutu. All were suffering from trachoma – but we were able to treat them, thanks to you.

Sightsavers surgeon Aliyu smiles with a group of children.
Sightsavers Reports

Meet the dancing trachoma surgeon

Aliyu A-Umar, a former trachoma surgeon in Nigeria, has an inspiring way of making people feel at ease about eye care.