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Monday, 25 February 2019 07:10

Eight million Malawians saved from trachoma threat

Written by  Tione Andsen
CEO for Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Bonfield- 8 million Malawian saved from trachoma CEO for Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Bonfield- 8 million Malawian saved from trachoma pic by Tione Andsen (Mana)

Lilongwe, February 25, 2019: Over 8 million Malawians have been saved from the risk of contraction trachoma which was there in 2014 but now the risk has been eliminated.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Dr Astrid Bonfield disclosed this Thursday during Trachoma Elimination in Malawi Progress Update held at Sunbird Capital hotel in Lilongwe.

She said the intervention that were put in place enable the vast majority of people not be at risk of losing their sight through the disease.

Bonfield commended Malawi government through Ministry of Health and Population for implementing the World Health Organization (WHO) for endorsing Surgeries, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement (SAFE) Strategy to address the threat.

The CEO said the SAFE strategy pronged approach consisting of surgery to correct in- turned eye lashes and prevent further damage to the eye.

She said antibiotic distribution reduced the spread of infection and promoted facial cleanliness practices.

Bonfield said communities were sensitized on how they could improve their environmental to prevent transmission from person to person and keep the disease at bay.

“The newly released figures show that to date, the trachoma initiative in the country has delivered vital antibiotics to more than 12.9 million people to stop the spread of infection,” the CEO explained.

She said the initiative provide people with more than 4,800 pain-relieving and sight saving surgeries.   

World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative to Malawi, Dr Fabian Ndenzako said the country would be a third to eliminate trachoma in Africa after Gambia and Ghana.

He said Malawi’s feat requires validation process to be done by WHO in 2020 to prove that the country is no longer recording any cases of trachoma.

“Malawi is within the last mile in order to be declared Trachoma free and all efforts and achievement need to be sustained so that people should be out of danger of contacting the disease further,” Ndenzako noted.

He said as a country, Malawi need to strengthen its surveillance system to monito r progress and enhance collaboration in the implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives in order to complete the last mile.

Head of Department for International Development (DFID), Dave Beer promised to continue monitoring progress on intervention to contain the spread of trachoma in the country.

He said there need to join hand in to eliminate the resilient cultural norms which promote the spread the disease within communities.

Country Director for Sightsavers in Malawi Bright Chiwaula said his organization conducted a lot of surgeries in order to overcome the trachoma problem

He cited districts like Nsanje, Chikwawa, Kasungu, Mchinji, Nkhotakota Karonga, Salima and Lilongwe where cases of trachoma were on the increase.

The intervention supported the installation of 1,610 hand and face washing stations at 145 schools to help stop the spread of the disease.

It trained more than 12,500 case finders to locate people in need of treatment and direct them to services.

The Trust’s Trachoma initiative is working towards the elimination of trachoma in 12 Commonwealth countries seven of which are in Africa namely, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.

In January 2020, the trust will have successfully completed its time limited programmes and will cease as a grant making organization and achieved a significant, sustainable reduction in avoidable blindness across Commonwealth, saving millions from losing their sight and created and developed a cadre of remarkable young leader as a legacy in honour of her majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.

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