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Strategy Ghana eliminates trachoma, freeing millions from suffering and blindness

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Ghana is the first country in WHO’s African Region to achieve this milestone.

play Fusi, an Opthalmic nurse screens communities in Yendi Photo: Ruth McDowall/Sightsavers 2016

The World Health Organization (WHO) today acknowledged Ghana for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, two decades after the World Health Assembly resolved to tackle the leading infectious cause of blindness.

The announcement comes the day after a commitment from Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zithromax (azithromycin), to extend their donation programme for the antibiotic until 2025, if required, to finish the task of global trachoma elimination.

“It’s been 20 years since the global health community committed to eliminating trachoma worldwide,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Although there’s more work to do elsewhere, the validation of elimination in Ghana allows another previously heavily-endemic country to celebrate significant success.”

Ghana is the first country in WHO’s African Region to achieve this milestone.

According to the country’s health minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the success is a result of a tremendous amount of hard work by thousands of health, education and development workers to improve the lives of individuals with trachoma and their families.

The global trachoma community learnt a lot from Ghana’s experience.

Innovations used included height-based dosing for azithromycin; systematic active case-searches for trichiasis involving door-to-door, community-by-community fieldwork; and, intensive counselling of patients found to have trichiasis with an offer of immediate surgery, which produced considerable improvement in surgical uptake.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa believes that Ghana’s success is due to the strong leadership at all levels

Trachoma: Ghana’s story Trachoma was identified in the 1950s as the most important cause of blindness in Ghana.

By the 1990s, the disease was known to persist as a significant public health problem in the Northern and Upper West Regions.

There were about 2.8 million people at risk of trachomatous blindness nationally, with an estimated 13 000 people suffering from trichiasis.

In 2000, the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service set up a national Trachoma Elimination Programme.