Trachoma is the world’s largest infectious cause of blindness. This infection has its roots as far back as Egyptian history. It affects millions of people causing them to go blind with its victims generally from poor communities.
Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection that is spread through contact with the eyes, eyelids, nose and/or throat fluids. It can also be spread through handling items that have been used by the infected. If left untreated, the result is blindness.
What is so amazing, is that trachoma is preventable. For example, young women in poor communities of Africa wear tweezers like a necklace to pluck out some of their eyelashes which can grow inwardly into their eyes.
This attempt is not always successful, causing painful infections, due to the eyelashes rubbing against the cornea. Medical care is not always available, thus causing eye infections that can render people blind. Prevention is the most effective way of staving off the trachoma bacteria. Hygienic habits are a necessary practice that involves:
- regular face and hand washing;
- controlling the fly population by getting rid of feces and trash waste because flies also transmit this disease;
- having access to fresh water sources.
There is hope now on the horizon because worldwide health alliances are coming together to combat this infection. Nation-wide collaborators like Sightsavers and the World Health Organization are forming a health strategy, named “SAFE.”
SAFE stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement. Sightsavers and their partners are maintaining a goal to eradicate trachoma as a public health issue. To get a handle on the extent of trachoma, field teams in rural countries are deployed to gather what is called The Tropical Data service.
Using smartphone technology, the teams collect and send data on trachoma issues in rural villages and communities back to specific health agencies for analyzing for the necessary health actions to be employed. What has impeded the progress to wipe out trachoma is simply that countries do not have the resources to end the disease.
At health conferences like TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), Sightsavers and other organizations have pledged their support to the Audacious Project. In the 2018 stage of The Audacious Project, it has produced million-dollar funding to start in several Commonwealth countries in 2020. Sightsavers and their partners in the Fred Hollows Foundation will coordinate the efforts in Africa and Asia along with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.
The country of Oman was recognized has the first country in 2012 to eliminate the infection, in 2016 Morocco followed by Mexico, Cambodia, and Laos followed in their trachoma elimination efforts. Other countries like Ghana are following with the necessary steps to eliminate trachoma.