Eliminating a disease is no small task. It helps to have a detailed plan. Partners working to eliminate blinding trachoma, one of the seven neglected tropical diseases targeted by 2020 INSight: The End in Sight.
Produced by the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), 2020 INSight is a global strategic plan with crucial next steps toward trachoma elimination by 2020.More than 2 million people are either blind or suffer excruciating pain because of trachoma. It makes one person experience severe sight loss every four minutes and blinds four people every hour. Over 4.6 million are in the final, painful stages of this eye disease and require surgery to prevent them from going blind. It is endemic in at least 59 countries, in areas with limited access to water and sanitation.
A coordinated effort by governments, nongovernmental organizations, donors and other stakeholders is urgently needed to achieve the goal. Crucial next steps include the following:
- Survey districts where trachoma is suspected to be endemic, so intervention can begin;
- Dramatically improve access to clean water and latrines;
- Increase global funding for trachoma control, including implementation of the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, Environmental improvement);
- Train teachers and other community leaders about facial cleanliness and better hygiene so they can spread the message in their communities;
- Quickly address the backlog of 4.6 million people who need surgery to prevent blindness;
- Identify support for more mass drug administration (MDA) programs to provide about 380 million more antibiotic treatments.
More than 80 percent of the burden of active trachoma is concentrated in 14 countries, where immediate action is needed. Eliminating the disease in Africa alone would boost the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) 20-30 percentage points based on conservative annual productivity loss estimates.
Since 1998, Pfizer Inc has donated more than 225 million doses of the antibiotic Zithromax® to treat and prevent blinding trachoma. The International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) manages the distribution of the medicine.
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