October 3, 2014

Initiative to Eliminate Blinding Trachoma in Kenya by 2019 Launched by Government

The Kenyan government has launched an historic five-year initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma across the country by early 2019, with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust).  The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative, spearheaded by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, aims to consign this debilitating disease to history across the entire country.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the Kenyan government will be working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), coordinated by Sightsavers, an international charity focused on the elimination of avoidable blindness. The initiative was launched in Kenya on Oct. 1.

The Trust was established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. With a mission to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth in honour of The Queen, the Trust has chosen to make the elimination of avoidable blindness a major focus of its work.

Of the 229 million people living in trachoma endemic districts globally, about 16 million of them live in Kenya. The disease slowly and painfully robs people of their sight, as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causes irreversible blindness. Women, traditionally the caretakers of the home, are almost twice as likely as men to develop blinding trachoma.

Between 2014 and 2019, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative plans to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem in Kenya and Malawi and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda. It will also tackle the disease in Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and Australia. The Initiative is based on a large-scale programme of surgery, antibiotic distribution, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement initiatives. This tried and tested strategy, known as SAFE, is endorsed by the World Health Organization and has already yielded strong results in other Commonwealth countries such as Ghana.

Sir John Major, Chairman of the Trust said:

"I am delighted that the Trust is working with the Government of Kenya to eliminate blinding trachoma across the country. Through this Initiative, the Trust seeks to make a real and enduring difference to people who are needlessly blind, in the name of Her Majesty The Queen."

Professor KH Martin Kollmann, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) and CBM Senior Advisor for NTDs commented: 

"It is extremely exciting to launch this ambitious trachoma programme. Blinding trachoma has a devastating personal and economic impact on people affected and their families. The ICTC is bringing together vast experience and the best available resources to support national programmes to make this ancient disease history."

Dr Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers said:

“This is a landmark programme for Kenya, being delivered through a major collaborative effort amongst organisations working in trachoma. Thanks to the commitment of the government, and the generosity of the Trust, trachoma elimination is truly within our grasp.  Sightsavers is proud to be co-ordinating this initiative, which will see the lives of millions of individuals, their families and communities improved as this painful disease is made history here.”  

By tackling this disease, not only will the programme help save the sight of people in Kenya and elsewhere, but it will enable children and young people to stay in education, and allow people to go out to work and support themselves and their families.

Notes to Editors

Initiative goals in Kenya

By 2019, the programme will:

·       Target 12 counties

·       Provide surgery around 41,000 people with advanced stages of blinding trachoma, known as trichiasis, to correct their in-turned lashes

·       Distribute antibiotics to 3 million people to treat the active infection

·       Improve community health messages on effective hygiene and sanitation practices

·       Work with others at all levels - global, national and district - to improve access to safe water sources and sanitation in the programme areas.

·       As part of the facial cleanliness element of SAFE, Unilever will be supporting a new face-washing pilot project to help reduce trachoma transmission.

New capacity-building initiatives, retraining, strengthened quality control and follow up will underpin the programme.

About The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative is working to eliminate blinding trachoma in countries within the Commonwealth, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.

Between 2014 and 2019, the Initiative aims to support national governments in Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma in Kenya and Malawi and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda; and to support the Pacific Island nations of Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to eliminate blinding trachoma and to strengthen the regional capacity to address the public health consequences of this blinding disease.

The Initiative is being undertaken in partnership with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control, an expert group of International Non-Governmental Development Organisations, training institutions, researchers and academics, and industry supporters with field based technical expertise in the elimination of blinding trachoma. The Initiative will be coordinated by ICTC members: Sightsavers in Africa and The Fred Hollows Foundation in the Pacific.

About The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth.

The Trust has received donations from governments, corporate partners, trusts, foundations, community groups and individuals from across the Commonwealth. Its mission is to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds within the Commonwealth, and its programmes work in alliance towards eliminating avoidable blindness and to empower a new generation of young leaders.

With a five-year timeframe in which to deliver successful programmes, the Trust’s aim is to leave a lasting legacy, owned by the whole Commonwealth, to honour Her Majesty The Queen.

For more information please visit www.jubileetribute.org.

About The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC)

ICTC is a coalition of International Non-Governmental Development Organisations, training institutions, researchers and academics, and industry supporters with field based technical expertise in the elimination of blinding trachoma. Private sector partners include Pfizer, who will donate the treatment, Zithromax® through the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI). See www.trachomacoalition.org.

When the International Coalition for Trachoma Control was established in 2004 it was an attempt to coordinate and synergise the NGDO work supporting national programmes to eliminate trachoma. ICTC is bound by a very strong partnership that exemplifies how an international public-private partnership can achieve remarkable results.

The acceleration over the last decade of efforts to eliminate blinding trachoma shows the power of the trachoma community partnership: operations have increased from 22,000 in 2004 to almost 170,000 in 2012; drug distribution has rapidly expanded from about 4 million in 2004 to over 47 million doses in 2012 and important gains have been made on both the Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvement components, often in collaboration with other programmes. Overall, more than 30 countries have elimination programmes underway.

For more information on the ICTC, please visit www.trachomacoalition.org.

About Sightsavers

  1. Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities. www.sightsavers.org.
  2. There are 39 million blind people in the world; 80% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
  3. In the six decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has:
    • Supported over 262.5 million treatments for blinding and potentially blinding conditions
    • Carried out over 8.1 million operations to restore sight
    • Trained almost 0.5 million primary eye care workers
    • Carried out rehabilitation training to 123,000 blind or low vision beneficiaries

Sightsavers role as grant manager means it works closely with the five national co-ordinating partners to ensure successful programme delivery, this includes embedding ICTC quality standards within national programmes.

Sightsavers has been working in Kenya for over 60 years, and works closely with partners including the Ministry of Health to deliver comprehensive eye care, education and social inclusion projects.  Last year the programmes in Kenya delivered over 7,300 sight-restoring surgeries, 1.2 million treatments for trachoma and supported 1,730 children who are visually impaired in school. 

About the ICTC Implementing partners in Kenya

The Trachoma Initiative in Kenya is being co-ordinated by Sightsavers and delivered by ICTC members: Sightsavers, CBM, Fred Hollows Foundation and Operation Eyesight Universal,alongside other local implementing agencies comprising of civil society, faith based organisations and county government health ministries.  

Contacts

For further information, please contact Rachel Heald in the Sightsavers media team on +44 1444 446754 rheald@sightsavers.org.

For further information about The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, please contact Effie Blythe on +44 7792 705384 effie.blythe@qejubileetrust.org.