Fifth and sixth countries to defeat eye-infection disease in WHO African region
West African countries Benin and Mali have eliminated eye infection trachoma as a public health problem, becoming the fifth and sixth countries in World Health Organization’s African Region to do so.
Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis, which is a public health problem in around 40 countries. Blindness from trachoma is irreversible.
The WHO May 16, 2023 congratulated the countries for the milestones. The countries implemented the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma.
The steps were:
Trachoma infection is transmitted by direct or indirect transfer of eye and nose discharges of infected people, particularly young children who harbour the principal reservoir of infection. Particular species of flies can spread these discharges as well.
Based on June 2022 data, 125 million people live in trachoma-endemic areas and are at risk of trachoma blindness, according to the WHO.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general said:
Following Benin’s and Mali’s success, trachoma remains endemic in 23 countries in WHO’s African Region, bringing us a step closer towards the elimination target for trachoma set in the road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030.
Countries that previously received WHO validation for trachoma elimination in the African region are Ghana (June 2018), Gambia (April 2021), Togo (May 2022) and Malawi (September 2022).
Globally, Cambodia, China, the Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu have been validated by the health agency for eliminating the disease.
Trachoma is found mainly in the poorest and most rural areas of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, the Western Pacific and the Middle East. The WHO African Region is disproportionately affected by trachoma, with 105 million people living in at-risk areas, which represents 84 per cent of the global trachoma burden.
The disease is hyperendemic in many of the poorest and most rural areas of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. It is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people and causes about 1.4 per cent of all blindness worldwide.
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