GLOBAL STRATEGY LAYS OUT CONCRETE ACTION PLAN TO ELIMINATE BLINDING TRACHOMA BY 2020
2020 INSight Analyzes and Shows Steps Urgently Needed to Fill Data Gap, Scale-Up Public Health Interventions and Secure Funding to Reach Goal
“We can make this disease history, and this document lays out a plan to do so.”
- Dr. Paul Emerson, Chair, International Coalition for Trachoma Control
(Atlanta, GA - July 26, 2011) An international coalition of partners in the fight to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020 today released a global strategic plan with actions to take and milestones to meet in order to reach that ambitious, but achievable goal.
Mapping disease prevalence and scaling up public health interventions, which include medicine and improved access to water and sanitation, are crucial elements in the fight to stem transmission of the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, endemic in 59 countries. More than 2 million people are either blind or suffer excruciating pain because of trachoma, according to “2020 INSight,” produced by the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC). Trachoma 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.
“We can make this disease history, and this document lays out a plan to do so,” said Dr. Paul Emerson, chair of the ICTC and director of the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program. “There is an urgent need for action to avoid additional suffering and unnecessary blindness for hundreds of thousands of people.”
Key findings in the global strategic plan include:
- Nearly 110 million people live in areas where trachoma is confirmed to be endemic, and another 210 million live in districts where trachoma is suspected but no data are available to guide public health interventions.
- $430 - $748 million in funding is needed to fully implement the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy: Surgery and Antibiotics to treat the disease and Facial cleanliness and Environmental Improvements to prevent the disease.
- 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 GDP 20-30 percentage points based on conservative annual productivity loss estimates
The plan is available at http://www.trachomacoalition.
An estimated 320 million people, mostly women and children in poorer countries, live in areas where they can be exposed to trachoma. Repeated trachoma infections of the upper eyelid lead to scarring and inturned eyelashes, which rub on the cornea, and can eventually cause blindness.
“2020 INSight can be used as an advocacy and planning tool,” said Chad MacArthur, past ICTC chair and the director of NTD control, and training and community education at Helen Keller International. “Endemic countries can determine where they are and what needs to be done. Stakeholders at all levels can determine where their support is most needed and leverage the resources to make this plan realistic.Elimination of blinding trachoma is possible and should be considered a moral imperative.”
Dr. Martin Kollmann, ICTC co-chair and Program Director for Neglected Tropical Diseases at CBM, called 2020 INSight a “common platform for urgent action.”
“We know what has to be done,” Kollmann said. “If we all intensify our efforts and work together using this document as a common roadmap, we can indeed make blinding trachoma history.”
Mapping and assessing the magnitude of blinding trachoma is critical to defining areas that are priority for implementation of control efforts. About 1,115 districts have been surveyed in the last 12 years, and 1,293 must be surveyed in areas that are suspected endemic. Trachoma-control programs must be underway by 2015 so there is enough time to eliminate the disease by 2020.
Political will and funding is also needed at global and national levels to support costs related to surveys, distribution of medicine, and improved access to clean water and latrines.
Significant progress has been made since 1998, when the World Health Organization (WHO) Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020) was created to tackle the challenge. A coordinated effort by governments, nongovernmental organizations, donors and other stakeholders is urgently needed to achieve the goal.