In 2000, Ghana had a reported 2.8 million people in the country at risk of trachoma, a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. The disease causes an inflamed granulation on the inner surface of the eyelids. Sightsavers has been working in Ghana, and during the 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) it was announced trachoma had been eliminated as a public health concern.
This news is good for all of Africa where more than 200 million people are at risk of developing this eye disease. With the breakthrough in Ghana, it is now possible to eliminate trachoma in other countries.
This infectious disease is spread by human touch, flies and is often prevalent in more impoverished areas where clean water is difficult to access. If left untreated, the eyelids will turn inwards leaving the surface of the eye vulnerable to the lashes scratching them. This condition is painful and can lead to irreversible blindness.
Simon Bush, Sightsavers Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases, states it took determination, collaboration and a lot of hard work for Ghana to eliminate this painful eye condition which has devasted millions of people who are the most vulnerable. This process was only possible with a global alliance who worked together with Ghana. Help came through government agencies, Sightsavers, pharmaceutical companies, fundraisers, and the community itself.
A midwife from Yendi was interviewed. She had contracted trachoma, and it had been severely affecting her eyesight to the point she could no longer deliver babies. She was only able to help new mothers bathe their children, but she could not perform deliveries. She was waiting for complete blindness to set in, she did not know it could be treated. She believed the condition had been going on for more than a year and when she was told there was a treatment, she said it was like a prayer had been answered.
Sightsavers along with a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service, WHO, funders, more than twenty NGOs, members of the International Coalition of Trachoma Control, the Carter Center, FH1360, and USAID END in Africa have all worked together to remove the threat of trachoma from Ghana. More than 6,000 people in the country underwent pain-relieving and potentially sight-saving surgery. Zithromax was donated by Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, to continue protecting and treating people.