Trachoma and the MDGs


As the leading cause of preventable blindness, trachoma disproportionately affects women and children in poor communities where a lack of access to clean water and sanitation result in a cycle of poverty and infection.  The SAFE strategy and the Millennium Development Goals both seek to address common issues surrounding disease, education, quality of life, and environmental improvements.[1]  The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals are therefore being addressed through the concerted efforts of the trachoma community to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem through the SAFE strategy.

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Reducing the number of people blinded by trachoma breaks the devastating cycle of disability, poverty and disease, thus improving socioeconomic status.

MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education

School attendance, by both girls and boys, is improved by preventing the chronic recurrence of trachoma in children.  Additionally, by preventing blindness among adults, the reliance of parents on their school age children as caregivers is reduced, increasing school attendance.

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Trachoma, a disease more prevalent among women than men, inhibits gender equity.  Targeting this disease improves a woman’s ability to be a comparable provider by becoming an active participant in her community and earning a wage, contributing to her family’s socioeconomic stability.

MDG 4: Improve child mortality

The greatest burden of trachoma falls on young children.  Implementation of the SAFE strategy results in improvements to the overall quality of a child’s life (including access to sanitation and clean water).  Through these comprehensive ameliorations, including ancillary benefits resulting from mass distribution of Zithromax®, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, child mortality is reduced. [2]

MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Through the implementation of the full SAFE strategy, the elimination of blinding trachoma as a public health problem can be achieved, freeing the world of the leading cause of preventable blindness.

MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Interventions addressing facial cleanliness and environmental improvement promote access to safe, clean water and sanitation.  These enhancements are evident in communities through the building of latrines and water points.

MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development

In order to eliminate blinding trachoma by the year 2020, there is a recognized need for collaboration among partners at all levels.  This collaboration is clearly demonstrated through the Alliance for Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020).  GET 2020 is an example of how governments, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations support essential activities contributing to a common goal. As part of these efforts, Pfizer has demonstrated a continued commitment to the GET 2020 goal through the donation of the antibiotic Zithromax®.



Efforts by the Ghana Health Service toward implementation, monitoring, and advocacy for trachoma since 2001 led to over 3.1 million cumulative doses of Zithromax® being distributed through 2008, over 4,500 people benefitting from trichiasis surgeries, and thousands of villages receiving health education, latrines, and improved access to water.  The combination of these interventions resulted in a decreased prevalence of an active stage of trachoma known as TF from 16% in some districts at baseline to less than 5% in all endemic districts by 2009.[3]  Activities are now focused on addressing the remaining need for surgeries and disease surveillance, with a target for elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Ghana by the end of 2010.


Through continued collaboration among trachoma community partners, the goal of global elimination of blinding trachoma as a public health problem can be achieved by the target date of 2020.  These efforts will continue to contribute to overall global development and an improved quality of life among the world’s poorest populations.

[3]Prevalence was measured as trachomatous inflammation follicular (TF) in children aged 1-9 years. From:Yayemain D, et al. Achieving trachoma control in Ghana after implementing the SAFE strategy. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg (2009), doi:10.1016/j.trstmh.2009.02.007

[2]Travis C. Porco; Teshome Gebre; Berhan Ayele; Jenafir House; Jeremy Keenan; Zhaoxia Zhou; Kevin Cyrus Hong; Nicole Stoller; Kathryn J. Ray; Paul Emerson; Bruce D. Gaynor; Thomas M. Lietman.  Effect of Mass Distribution of Azithromycin for Trachoma Control on Overall Mortality in Ethiopian Children: A Randomized Trial.  JAMA. 2009; 302(9): 962-968.

[1]Wright HR, Turner A, Taylor HR. Trachoma and poverty: unnecessary blindness further disadvantages the poorest people in the poorest countries. Clin Exp Optom.2007 Nov; 90(6):422-8.