UK government announces boost to trachoma elimination efforts in the Commonwealth

19 April 2018

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This week, as the 2018 Commonwealth Summit began, the Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP announced a new £20 million commitment to ending trachoma - the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness - in the Commonwealth.

The £20 million Commonwealth 2018-2020 Fund will carry forward the significant progress made in Commonwealth countries since 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative and a network of other organisations.

Trachoma is preventable and treatable, yet it currently affects 52 million people in the Commonwealth. It starts as a bacterial infection spread by flies and human contact. If the infection is left untreated or returns, repeated infections can cause scar tissue to develop on the inside of the eyelid, turning eyelashes inwards. With every blink, they painfully scrape the surface of the eye, which can lead to irreversible blindness.

Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said: “At the Trust, thanks to support from DFID and our partners from across the Commonwealth, we have seen how the elimination of trachoma transforms lives for the better.  It is wonderful news that more citizens, communities and countries across the Commonwealth can now look forward to a future free of the scourge of this ancient, painful, blinding disease.”

The new fund will boost trachoma elimination efforts in Kenya, Kiribati, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tonga and Vanuatu. It will also support Papua New Guinea to develop its first full Trachoma Action Plan to set out the course to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem in the country.

Penny Mordaunt said: “This further commitment will mean millions of people across the Commonwealth will receive vital sight-saving treatment and we will be on course to eliminate this ancient and avoidable disease.”

Building on the momentum of this announcement, The Trust is continuing to work with leading eye health agencies under the Vision for the Commonwealth banner. As part of this initiative, the Trust, Sightsavers, Clearly, Peek, The Fred Hollows Foundation and the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) are calling on Commonwealth leaders meeting at the summit to bring vision to everyone, everywhere, by committing to taking one significant action towards that goal by 2020.

Photo credit: Sightsavers/Javier Acebal