Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia Trachomatis which causes repeated infections, similar to conjunctivitis, and is easily spread from person to person. It is most commonly found in poor, rural communities where people have limited access to clean water and healthcare. Each infection can cause scar tissue to develop under the eyelid which eventually causes them to turn inwards. With every blink, their eyelashes scrape the surface of the eye, scarring the cornea and if left untreated, can lead to irreversible blindness. This final stage is known as trachomatous trichiasis.
1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired because of the disease, while 157 million people are at risk of going blind from it. Australia is the only high-income country in the world where people are still affected by trachoma and Africa has the highest burden of the disease. Women are blinded up to 4 times as often as men, due to their close contact with infected children.
What we’re doing about it
The Trust is working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control to make major advances towards the elimination of blinding trachoma across 12 Commonwealth countries. Through implementing the World Health Organization approved SAFE strategy (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement) to fight the disease, significant progress is being made at speed and scale in each of the countries where we work. In order to eliminate trachoma, a country needs to demonstrate that the elimination prevalence thresholds have been achieved and then sustained for at least a two-year period – known as the surveillance period. It is hoped Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda will all enter the surveillance stage and remove the risk of people going blind from trachoma by the end of the programme at the end of 2019.
How we measure progress
The significant progress that has been made towards trachoma elimination is an example of how by working together, the Commonwealth can bring positive change on a large scale. Monitoring and evaluation is a key component of this project and the measurement of progress against indicators will be achieved by a number of complementary methods, including impact surveys, post-mass drug administration coverage surveys (to verify the true coverage achieved), routine data collected by the health system, supervision checklists, programme/district reports and financial reports. Regular updates on progress are shared on this website.