15 March 2017

Malawi On the Verge of Eliminating Trachoma With Help of UK

Malawi with assistance from Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is on the verge of eliminating blinding trachoma, an eye infection that had affected 9.5 million people in the country as of 2014, British High Commissioner to Malawi, Holly Tett has said.

She made the announcement at her residence in Lilongwe when she hosted Her Royal Highness, Sophie, Countess of Wessex who is Vice Patron of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

The Countess of Wessex is in the country to visit programmes that her trust is implementing to eliminate avoidable blindness and champion young leaders.

"Malawi is a success story in the End Trachoma Initiative. It is the first out of 12 Commonwealth countries to meet the criteria where trachoma is no longer a public health problem by 2018 and verification of elimination by 2020 as set by the World Health Organisation.

"It is a story we will proudly share in the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting next year," said UK diplomat.

Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive Officer for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in an interview attributed the success registered in Malawi to commitment that the Government of Malawi through the Ministry of Health and members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) and the coordinator, Sightsavers with support from the trust.

"This success which has come two years after the launch of the initiative is a major milestone. It is result of commitment by all partners involved in the initiative in ensuring that face wash campaign which served as a preventive measure and provision treatment such as surgery and antibiotic distribution succeed in preventing avoidable blindness. We are optimistic that we can achieve anything with this level of commitment," said Bonfield.

Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume commenting on the success of the initiative said his ministry was grateful for the support received from the trust and will remain committed to strategies that have proved to be successful in eliminating trachoma in the country.

"We are very happy to show the Vice Patron of the Trust the success that initiative has registered. My ministry will continue implementing strategies that the initiative used.

"We will continue with the hygiene campaign as a preventive measure. We will also continue to use Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) to monitor trachoma outbreaks to ensure that treatment is administered quickly," said Kumpalume.

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