Accra, August 7, 2018 - Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Services, and their partners, as well as distinguished guests gathered today to celebrate the elimination of Trachoma. Ghana was validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having eliminated Trachoma as a public health problem. It is the first sub-Saharan country to have overcome one of the oldest diseases known to man.
Trachoma is an ocular disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia Trachomatis, and it is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness; causing the visual impairment or blindness of nearly 1.9 million people. It is part of a larger group of illnesses, known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) - primarily caused by parasites and bacteria. Affecting, 2 to 3 times more women than men, the infection can turn into a more complicated condition known as Trachoma Trichiasis - a stage when the upper eyelid turns inwards causing the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball. However, Trichiasis can be reversed with eye-surgery and antibiotic doses.
Passed on through the contact with infected ocular and nasal secretions, or by eye flies, Trachoma is painful, and impacts productivity and economic development. Common to all NTDs, Trachoma has a strong correlation with poor hygiene, water shortage, inadequate sanitation, as well as socioeconomic conditions.
As Ghana reflects on this considerable milestone achieved two years before the 2020 target set in the WHO’s initiated Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020) initiative, a shared feeling of pride and job well done was felt throughout the Celebration ceremony. Today, everyone emphasized how strong alliances between the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Services and their partners including, the affected communities, have had a tremendous impact in the implementation of the WHO recommended SAFE Strategy and on making this journey to ending Trachoma possible.
SAFE is a four-step strategy to prevent, treat and eliminate Trachoma. It stands for surgery in eligible cases of trichiasis, administration of antibiotic doses to treat the infection, facial cleanliness as a key solution to prevent spreading and contamination, and environmental improvement which addresses the enhancement of clean water and adequate sanitation availability.
As the first sub-Saharan African country to reach this elimination of Trachoma, Ghana paves the way for the remaining countries still fighting against this scourge in Africa and worldwide; providing them with proven strategies and long-term solutions.