London — The UK will protect the sight of millions of people in Africa at risk of developing blindness caused by trachoma, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone has announced today.
Trachoma starts with a bacterial eye infection which if left untreated can lead to blindness. Trachoma is responsible for 3% of global blindness, causing 1 adult to go blind every 15 minutes. Up to 230 million people are at risk of catching the disease with 70% of those affected women. The pain, low vision and blindness caused by the disease can trap people in a cycle of poverty by preventing them from going to work. Women and children may also have to give up education or employment to provide care to affected family members.
The Department for International Development is investing £39 million to help support the elimination of trachoma in countries like Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania where the disease is highly endemic. The funding will support the implementation of the Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvements (SAFE) strategy which has proven successful in eliminating the disease.
Lynne Featherstone said:
Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world yet it is an entirely preventable disease. Stopping trachoma before it gets hold can make a significant difference to people's lives, especially women. Up to 90 per cent of blind people cannot work making their poverty worse and leading to greater financial insecurity and lower standards of living.
The £39 million will be implemented by a consortium of International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) members and will be managed by SightSavers. The new programme forms part of DFID's increased focus on disability. It will help thousands of people receive surgery to prevent blindness; see millions of doses of antibiotics distributed, and improve cleanliness to stop the spread of the disease, including eliminating the conditions which promote disease carrying flies.SOURCE UK Department for International Development