Trachoma is a disease of the poor. And it is a misery to endure. It is a painful malady of the eyes, caused by frequent and repeated eye infections that scar the inside of the eyelids so the eyelashes rotate inwards and scratch the eye, damaging it.
The disease is spread by contact with a person that has an active infection, which means that Trachoma frequently spreads among relatives. A person’s immune system can defeat a single episode of infection, but in endemic communities, re-acquisition of the bacteria occurs frequently. And eventually, repeated infections will cause blindness. Around the world, some 190 million people in 41 countries are at risk of going blind from Trachoma. 2.2 million people have decreased vision due to the disease. Of these, 1.2 are already blind.
The good news is that Trachoma is preventable through good hygiene and frequent washing with clean water, and treatable with antibiotics such as azithromycin or tetracycline.
In late May, USAID Spokesperson Clayton McCleskey announced in a written statement that two countries, Ghana and Nepal, have succeeded in eliminating Trachoma as a public health problem.
This is no mean feat. For a country to be considered trachoma free, more than 95 percent of children between 1 and 9 years old living in previously-endemic district must be free of signs of active trachoma.In each previously-endemic district, fewer than 2 tenths of one percent of people 15 years and older must be free of trachomatous trichiasis, the characteristic inward-turned lashes. And the country’s health system must be capable of identifying and managing new cases of trachomatous trichiasis.
The U.S. Government, through USAID, has supported the Government of Ghana's efforts to eliminate trachoma since 2006. This includes technical and financial support for mapping the disease, the delivery of 1.1 million treatments of azithromycin donated by Pfizer, and impact evaluations in 37 endemic Districts.
USAID's support to the Government of Nepal on Trachoma began in 2009, and included mapping the disease in 31 Districts, delivering more than 2.4 million treatments of azithromycin donated by Pfizer, and conducting impact surveys in 24 Districts.
The United States congratulates Ghana and Nepal on this remarkable achievement, which will improve the lives of their people.