17 October 2019
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Sunday, 08 March 2015 19:31

'Malawi to eliminate trachoma by 2018'

Written by  Tikondane Vega


Blantyre, March 8: Malawi has initiated a unique programme aimed at eliminating blinding trachoma by 2018.

The programme, set to benefit nearly 6000 people, is based on a large scale programme of surgery, antibiotic distribution, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement.

Speaking during the orientation of the programme in Blantyre on Friday, Country Director for Sight savers Malawi, Roy Hauya said the initiative is funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust through its Trachoma initiative and is being led by the Ministry of Health.

“Funding is coming through Sight savers Malawi to the tune of £7.3 million. So when we say Malawi wants to eliminate trachoma blindness what we mean is that the country is planning to bring the infection down to below a public health crisis for Malawi to deal with it routinely in its hospitals.”

Added Hauya: “Malawi is one of the top 14 countries most affected by blind trachoma. Of nearly 230 million people living in trachoma endemic districts globally, about 9.5 million live in Malawi. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, government is working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) to support and enable Ministry of Health to tackle trachoma."

According to Hauya, Sight Savers is coordinator of the program and other partners include the Blantyre Institute of Community Ophthalmology, CBM, Water Aid, Amref Health Africa, and Heart to Heart Foundation.

Michael Masika, Assistant Director of Clinical Services (Ophthalmology) under the Ministry of Health said Malawi was ready to implement the programme.

Masika said interventions would be implemented in 15 districts  of Chikwawa, Nsanje, Machinga, Zomba, Mangochi, Mwanza, Neno, Ntcheu, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Salima, Dowa, Ntchisi, Lilongwe West, Lilongwe East and Mchinji.

He envisaged that the programme will not only help save the sight of many people in Malawi, but also enable children and young people to remain in school. He said it would also allow people to go out to work and support themselves and their families.

“The programme will re-empower people who might have been disabled for a long time, particularly women, to engage them in social and economic activities."

“Through this programme we shall distribute antibiotic treatment to over eight million people in all 15 districts targeted by the initiative including developing improved community health messages on good hygiene and sanitation practices to enhance trachoma prevention," he said.

Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust project Country Programme Manager Bright Chiwaula said globally, the elimination of trachoma is planned for 2020, but Malawi was likely to eliminate blindness trachoma before that year.

According to Chiwaula, of the 6000 people from 15 districts that are set to benefit from the programme, Kasungu and Salima districts have the highest number of people to be operated on.

“Kasungu district has 1649 people to be assisted while Salima has 1637 people also to benefit from the programme. Trachoma can be treated or prevented in a number of ways endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Once everything is set there will be camps in the district targeted where people can have access to the services,” said Chiwaula.

Between now to 2019, the Queen Elizabeth Trust Trachoma initiative plans to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem in Kenya and Malawi and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The trust initiative was established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubille and 60 year contribution to the Commonwealth.

With the mission to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth, the trust has chosen to make the elimination of avoidable blindness a major focus of its work.

Trachoma is an eye infectious disease associated with poor hygiene and living conditions which if not treated causes irreversible blindness.

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