Monday, 24 June, 2024
HomeNews UpdateMalawi wins fight against trachoma – and about to eliminate river blindness

Malawi wins fight against trachoma – and about to eliminate river blindness

Malawi has become the first country in southern Africa to eliminate trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness – the fourth on the continent to stamp out the bacterial infection – and is also on the verge of stamping out river blindness.

It has been endemic for trachoma since the 1980s, reports VOA.

Trachoma received attention in 2008 after a survey done in support of the WHO and Sightsavers, an NGO. The results spurred the country to escalate efforts against trachoma by establishing a national taskforce to implement the WHO-recommended strategy called SAFE. This comprises provision of surgery, antibiotics to clear the infection, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement through access to water and sanitation.

Bright Chiwaula, country director for Sightsavers in Malawi, said besides the SAFE strategy, the achievement is also a result of several elements, including training of surgeons and the promotion of good hygiene education.

“We also ensured we had a monitoring mechanism in place that was effective and efficient, so we were able to track what was happening in the country regarding trachoma elimination.”

Trachoma is one of a number of neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, and is endemic in nearly half of the countries in Africa.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has paid special tribute to community health workers, many of them women, whom he says have played an instrumental role in freeing millions of citizens from the misery caused by these diseases.

He added that he hoped such an achievement would be replicated in the fight against other NTDs like scabies, schistosomiasis and river blindness.

Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, said her organisation was working towards that.

“The great news is that Malawi is very close to eliminating river blindness,” she said. “Sightsavers in Malawi is helping the ministry to do that – and is actually working in 30 countries on NTDs across the whole of Africa.”

Harper said Sightsavers made a commitment at a global summit in Rwanda in June to invest at least $20m in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, but was hoping to raise far more than that in the future.


VOA News article – World Health Organization Declares Malawi Trachoma-Free (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Ethiopian trial finds trachoma not eliminated by mass antibiotic prophylaxis


Poorer African nations rank high in disease-fighting league table, but SA languishes


Ghanaian doctor wins Falcon Award for Disease Elimination for work on river blindness


SA still in the danger zone for neglected tropical diseases — ALMA




MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.