SIGNS show that there are significant reductions in Trachoma cases in the country thanks to joint efforts by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and development partners.
The Minister, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, made the remarks during a brief handover ceremony of 239,952 bottles of Zithromax Paediatric oral suspension and 17,520 bottles of 500 tablets from Pfizer.
Dr Upendo Mwingira, national coordinator for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Control Programme of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, told the 'Daily News on Saturday' in an interview that ten out of the 50 most prone trachoma districts would be assessed after managing to reduce the disease.
She said that for a district to be eligible for assessment, the reduction of the disease should be at below ten per cent mark. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Trachoma is the result of infection of the eye with Chlamydia trachomatis, which is the name of the bacteria causing it. Infection often begins during infancy or childhood and can become chronic.
If left untreated, the infection eventually causes the eyelid to turn inwards, which in turn causes the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball, resulting in intense pain and scarring of the front of the eye. This ultimately leads to irreversible blindness, typically between 30 and 40 years of age.
"The population at risk for getting the disease is currently around 13 million. Elimination is possible using the SAFE strategy in which S (stands for surgery), A (Antibiotic treatment), F (Face washing) and E (Environmental sanitation)," she said. Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi said the SAFE intervention that started in 2005 in six districts had expanded to all 50 mapped districts by 2010.
Dr Mwinyi thanked Pfizer Vice- President Corporate Responsibility, Ms Caroline Roan. "We have been receiving donations from Pfizer, WHO, USAID, Sightsavers, Worldvision and other partners and signs are already indicating that some districts are witnessing a reduction," he said.
Tanzania is one of the trachoma endemic countries and according to the baseline survey conducted between 2004 and 2006 under the support of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), 50 districts are endemic for Trachoma with the prevalence of more than per cent.
In 2009, the Ministry initiated the Neglected Tropical Diseases programme whereby an integrated approach of delivery of antihelminthic medicine was co-administered with Zithromax into all disease endemic areas. The Minister said that this integration had facilitated increased coverage and rational use of meagre resources available in the country.