Malawi has become the first country in southern Africa to eliminate trachoma, a tropical disease that causes irreversible blindness, the World Health Organization has announced (WHO)
“Malawi’s success story is changing the lives of millions of children who were at risk of contracting this devastating diseaseWHO Regional Director – Africa Matshidiso Moeti said, “What this country has achieved can be replicated across the continent“.
Trachoma leads to painful late complications, resulting in vision loss, lifelong disability, and significant emotional and economic hardship for families.
This devastating disease is a bacterial infection of the eye that turns the eyelids inward, causing them to rub painfully against the eyeball, and can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.
This major achievement in Malawi follows 12 years of sustained action by the government, supported by a network led by non-profit organization Sightsavers.
Malawian President Lazarus Sakwera said the victory showed that the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) could be won after eliminating elephantiasis, a disease characterized by swollen limbs, by 2020.
He urged the heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to endorse the Kigali Declaration on NTDs so that these endemic diseases can be eradicated.
For her part, Sightsavers Malawi director, Bright Chiwaula, says that due to the hard work, dedication and cooperation of the government, health workers, volunteers and non-governmental organizations, 9.5 million people are no longer at risk of losing their sight to trachoma.
Malawi has trained local surgeons to treat more than 6,000 cases of advanced trachoma and helped more than 250 schools adopt improved hygiene and sanitation programs.