Government has launched a five-year initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma, across the country by early 2019.

According to Official Malawi Government Online facebook page the programme was launched on Thursday at Chidzenje Primary School, Traditional Authority Lukwa in Kasungu on Thursday and coincided with the commemoration of International Sight Day.

International Sight Day falls on 9th October, but the country chose to commemorate it on 16th October in order to coincide with the launch of the initiative which would see the country get rid of trachoma; an eye disease which is spread by flies.

Minister of Health, Dr. Jean Kalilani, who graced the official launch of the programme, said since 1980s Malawi has been endemic to trachoma and the most affected have been rural women and children.

“Malawi has about 9.5 million people who live in trachoma endemic districts and women who are traditionally caretakers of the homes are twice as likely as men to develop trachoma,
“Until 2011 there was no written plan and there were some interventions but now we have developed a formal plan of how to deal with this,
“Through the plan the Ministry of Health will also contribute a lot in eliminating blinding trachoma in the country,” said Dr. Kalilani.

The Minister hailed the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust which has supported the programme through Malawi government and members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) coordinated by Sightsavers International.

“The support from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust comes at a great time as this will help train ophthalmic surgeons, buy drugs and also buy vehicles and equipments to be used in the whole initiative,” said the Minister.

Sightsavers International Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Caroline Harper, said the programme with commitment from the Malawi Government and the generosity of Queen Elizabeth Trust the elimination of trachoma is within everyone’s grasp.

“Sightsavers is proud to coordinate the initiative which will see the lives of millions of individuals, their families and communities improved as this painful disease is made history,” said Dr Harper.

The programme which targets 17 districts would, among others, provide surgery to over 5,902 people with advanced trachoma, distribute antibiotic treatment to over eight people and improve community health messages on good hygiene and sanitation practices.

Trachoma slowly and painfully robs people of their sight as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causing irreversible blindness.

Some of the organisations that would work under the guidance of Sight savers in the country include WaterAid and Blantyre Institute for Community Ophthalmology (BICO), CBM and AMREF Health Africa.

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