CBM is one of the implementing partners in a historic five-year initiative launched this week to eliminate blinding trachoma in Malawi . Malawi is the second country to launch an initiative to wipe out the disease by 2019 with the support of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, following on from a recent commmitment by the Kenyan Government.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the Malawi government will be working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), which includes CBM.

Of the 229 million people living in trachoma endemic districts globally, about 9.5 million of them live in Malawi. 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 Malawi 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, CBM Senior Advisor for NTDs and Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) 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.”

By 2019, the programme in Malawi will:
• Provide over 5,900 people with surgery for advanced trachoma.
• Distribute antibiotic treatment to over eight million people.
• Improve community health messages on good hygiene and sanitation practices.
• Work at district, national and global level to improve access to safe water sources and sanitation in the programme areas.

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

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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