The World Health Organization (WHO) announced new data that revealed the number of people at risk for trachoma had fallen from 1.5 billion in 2002 to 142 million in 2019—a 91% reduction, according to Orbis International.
The report was released at the annual meeting of the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020) earlier this year.
Trachoma, the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, was eradicated in most industrialized nations by the 1950s but is still found in areas of the world where poor sanitation, lack of clean water, and limited access to healthcare services are common. Due to traditional gender roles, women caring for young children are four times as likely to develop advanced trachoma, and become blinded as men.i,ii,iii
The goal of eliminating trachoma cannot be accomplished alone. It will require strong organizational partnerships and ongoing funding. The four leading eye health organizations: Orbis, SightSavers, Fred Hollows Foundation, and CBM, have seen the urgency of blinding trachoma and agreed to tackle this issue together. Each organization has focused their efforts in a specific region of Ethiopia in the hopes of reaching as many communities as possible. Ethiopia has been a target region for these organizations as 44% of the global cases of trachoma found in the region and more than 75 million people in the country live in areas where trachoma is endemic.
Orbis International, one of the leading non-profits fighting trachoma, has played a key role in this reduction. In 2018 alone, Orbis distributed over 8.3 million doses of Zithromax and Tetracycline, antibiotics used to prevent and treat Trachoma. Orbis also completed 16,474 trachomatous trichiasis (TT) surgeries in 2018. Recent progress has been backed up with a long history of work in preventing and treating trachoma through 20 years of partnership with local hospitals in Ethiopia.
“We are thrilled to learn that the number of people living in areas endemic for trachoma has decreased by 91% since 2002 thanks to the enormous, collaborative efforts of partners who have helped make this possible,” Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Programs at Orbis International, said in a news release. “We are determined to step up our efforts in Ethiopia, doing our part to free the SNNPR region of this blinding scourge, and aim to reach over 10 million people this year alone. With 142 million people still at risk from trachoma globally, we must continue to innovate and collaborate with the eye health community to finally consign this painful and blinding disease to the history bin.”
Orbis International is committed to working with partners across the eye health community to continue to make strides in eliminating this blinding disease from Ethiopia.
i Trachoma – A women and children’s health issue. Last access on 7/25/19 at http://www.trachomacoalition.org/sites/all/themes/report-2016/PDF/Trachoma_A_women_and_children’s_health_issue.pdf
ii Women and Trachoma. The Carter Center. Last accessed on 7/25/19 at https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/health/trachoma/women_trachoma.pdf
iii Trachoma. WHO. Last accessed on 7/25/19 at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/trachoma