2 Malawi becomes the first country in southern Africa and the fifth in Africa to achieve this important milestone.
3 “Malawi’s achievement changes the lives of millions of children who were at risk of contracting this devastating disease.
4 Trachoma causes painful late complications that lead to visual impairment, a lifelong disability that causes significant emotional and financial hardship for families.
5 With Malawi leading the way, I hope that other endemic countries in southern Africa will prioritize fighting neglected diseases that cause untold suffering to vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
7 Malawi has been known to be endemic for trachoma since the 1980s.
8 However, it was not until 2008, when surveys were conducted with the support of the WHO and Sightsavers, a non-governmental organization, that trachoma received its due attention.
9 In 2015, Malawi reported that 7.6 million people were at risk of trachoma infection.
10 Following the surveys and with the support of WHO and its partners, Malawi intensified anti-trachoma efforts and established a national trachoma task force that implemented the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy to control trachoma.
11 This involved training a cadre of mid-level ophthalmologists in surgery to treat the blinding stage of trachoma, implementing mass administration of antibiotics with donations from Pfizer, and conducting public awareness campaigns to promote facial cleanliness and personal hygiene.
12 Stakeholders supported the improvement of water, sanitation and hygiene services at the district level.
14 WHO is helping health authorities in Malawi to closely monitor communities where trachoma was previously endemic to ensure there is a rapid response to any resurgence of the disease.
15 Globally, Malawi joins 14 other countries that have been validated by the WHO as having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem.
17 Disease prevalence Trachoma remains a public health problem in 42 countries with an estimated 125 million people living in areas endemic for the disease.
18 Trachoma is found primarily in the poorer, more rural areas of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, the Western Pacific, and the Middle East. Africa is disproportionately affected by trachoma with 111 million people living in areas at risk, representing 89% of the global burden of trachoma.
19 Significant progress has been made in recent years, with the number of people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma in Africa falling by 38%, from 178 million in 2016 to 111 million in June 2022.
20 Following the success of Malawi , trachoma remains endemic in 28 countries in Africa.
21 Trachoma disease is the leading infectious cause of blindness and is triggered by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
22 The infection spreads from person to person through contaminated fingers, fomites, and flies that have come into contact with secretions from the eyes or nose of an infected person.
23 Environmental risk factors for trachoma transmission include poor hygiene, crowded homes, inadequate access to water, and inadequate access to or use of adequate sanitation facilities.
24 Trachoma is an endemic disease that primarily affects remote, underserved rural communities.
25 The infection mainly affects children, and becomes less common with increasing age.
26 Repeated infections in early childhood result in late complications years or decades later.
27 In adults, women are twice as likely as men to be affected by blinding complications of trachoma, mainly due to their close contact with infected children.
28 Repeated infections in childhood cause scarring on the inner face of the upper eyelids.
29 In some people, this leads to one or more upper eyelid lashes touching the eye, known as trachomatous trichiasis, a debilitating condition that causes extreme pain with every blink of the eyelids.
30 Trachomatous trichiasis can be treated surgically, but if left untreated it can cause scarring of the cornea, leading to visual impairment and blindness.
31 Trachoma can be eliminated using the WHO SAFE strategy.
33 With other Alliance partners, WHO supports the implementation of the SAFE strategy in countries and the strengthening of national capacity through epidemiological assessment, monitoring, surveillance, project evaluation and the mobilization of resources that contribute to the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.
34 The Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap 2021-2030, approved by the World Health Assembly in 2020 through its decision 73(33), sets 2030 as the new deadline for global elimination.