Ghana Eliminates Blinding Trachoma, a First for West Africa
June 14th, 2018
ACCRA, GHANA—The Government of Ghana has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, according to a recent communication from by the World Health Organization (WHO), making Ghana the first West African country to achieve validation of trachoma elimination. Ghana’s success contributes to the current global momentum in the fight against NTDs.
Trachoma is the foremost infectious cause of blindness worldwide. It is a bacterial eye infection that affects the eyes and eyelids, causing scarring in the eyelids and resulting in the eyelashes turning inward toward the eye (trichiasis). In the absence of early intervention, the irritation of the cornea (the clear covering at the front of the eye) due to continuous brushing and scratching of the distorted eyelashes against the cornea, can result in corneal ulcers and end in blindness.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development-financed END in Africa Project, FHI 360 has worked with Ghana Health Service’s (GHS) Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) program for 8 years to eliminate and control trachoma and other NTDs. Including Ghana, FHI 360 is working in six West African countries to support all phases of NTD program implementation — mapping disease distribution, treating of at-risk populations, monitoring and evaluating treatment impact, and documenting successes along the road to international recognition of the control or elimination of these terrible diseases. From 2010–2018, the END in Africa Project supported the global distribution of more than 464 million NTD Program treatments for trachoma and other diseases.
“Congratulations to Ghana! Ghana’s achievement in eliminating trachoma is clear evidence of the power of USAID investments to improve lives and restore health in countless communities, with support from committed partners like FHI 360,” said Bolivar Pou, END in Africa Project Director at FHI 360.
Pou continued, “Diseases like trachoma affect citizens across entire countries and eliminating them is no small feat. Ghana’s success shows how much a small, dedicated team of national and international partners—in this case, GHS and FHI 360, among others—can accomplish with an undying vision and a whole lot of persistence.”
Working in Ghana since 2010— watch Ghana’s Trachoma Story—USAID and FHI 360 have provided technical and financial assistance for trachoma post-treatment surveillance and trachoma pre-validation surveys in 37 districts, as well as assisted in the development of a trachoma elimination dossier. This dossier outlines disease prevalence, treatments, care for people with trichiasis, and access to clean water and sanitation— all criteria for securing WHO validation of elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.
Ghana has also made progress toward achieving the elimination of another NTD, lymphatic filariasis (LF). Of 98 Ghanaian health districts with LF cases, 83 have already met the WHO criteria to stop mass treatments for that disease. Such progress is further evidence of Ghana’s commitment to ending NTDs, as demonstrated through its robust surveillance system to guard against disease resurgence, treatment of people requiring trichiasis surgery, and support of treatment for other endemic NTDs, with support from END in Africa.
Through USAID’s END in Africa Project, FHI 360 is supporting the global campaign to eliminate trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases as public health problems in 6 countries. To learn more about FHI 360’s work on neglected tropical diseases, visit https://endinafrica.org/ and follow us on Twitter at @ENDinAfrica.
The END in Africa project is implemented by FHI 360 and funded by USAID under cooperative agreement No. AID-OAA-A-10-00050.
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