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UK to Donate £39 Million to Help Eliminate Trachoma

The British Department of Development announced on June 24 that is it set to donate £39 million to help support the elimination of trachoma. The funding is designed to support implementation of the Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvements (SAFE) strategy, which has seen considerable success in helping to eliminate the disease.

Trachoma is an infectious disease of the eye caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The disease has a variety of clinical manifestations, but the most common one is an acute infection that results in mild itching, irritation and inflammation. Repeated infections and inflammation can cause visual impairment, scarring and, eventually, blindness. As is typical with such diseases, children are especially susceptible to contracting it. Trachoma is responsible for 3 percent of global blindness, with 230 million people at risk of contracting the disease, and 70 percent of those who are affected are women

The £39 million will be implemented by a consortium of International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) members and will be managed by SightSavers. The ICTC was established in 2004 with two main goals: contribute to the global effort to eliminate blinding trachoma and to advocate for and implement the SAFE strategy. The ICTC consists of a wide variety of organizations committed to trachoma control and is endorsed by the Wold Health Organization (WHO.) One of those organization is SightSavers. Their work has already spread to 37 different countries, helped over 120 million people and it currently has over 200 active projects.

The biggest concern regarding trachoma is that as a result of blindness, those who contract the disease are unable to work. As a result of this, the inability to work traps those who catch the disease in a cycle of poverty. As the International Development Minister Lynn Featherstone explains, “Stopping trachoma before it gets hold [sic] can make a significant difference to people’s lives, especially women. Up to 90 percent of blind people cannot work, making their poverty worse and leading to greater financial insecurity and lower standards of living.” Hopefully this donation can help those in need and turn the tides on this entirely preventable disease.

Andre Gobbo

Sources: SightSavers, International Coalition for Trachoma Control, Department for International Development
Photo: Medical Ecology