World Sight Day: Eye care for everyone, everywhere

11 October 2018

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The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative is marking World Sight Day 2018 by celebrating the remarkable progress that is being made to end trachoma and thanking partners for their continued commitment.

World Sight Day aims to raise awareness of visual impairment and blindness across the globe. This year’s theme, #EyeCareEverywhere, is particularly relevant to the Trachoma Initiative’s work to free some of the world’s poorest communities and countries of  blinding trachoma.

Before the Trachoma Initiative launched in 2014, the World Health Organization estimated that globally over 230 million people were at risk of losing their sight to trachoma, trapping families in a cycle of poverty. The infectious disease is easily transmitted from person to person and slowly and painfully robs people of their sight.  To help address this, the Trust has been working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control to make major advances towards eliminating the disease in 12 Commonwealth countries.

Thanks to the commitment of governments and the efforts of a network of partners, in the last four years the number of people at risk of trachoma has reduced by over 70 million. One country that has made the biggest leap in progress is Malawi.

In 2014, eight million people in Malawi were at risk of losing their sight from trachoma. Thousands had the advanced, blinding-form of the disease and urgently needed surgical treatment. Since then, the Trachoma Initiative has treated over eight million people with vital antibiotics and provided sight-saving surgery to over 5,600 people. The country is now at a critical juncture where now, no one in Malawi will go blind needlessly from trachoma.

Jenala’s story

Jenala who lives in Malawi, is 34-years-old and has had problems with her eyes since she was young.  She said: “If I wanted to see something that is higher than me, I would feel pain in my eyes. I was unable to cook and carry out family activities; it was very difficult for me.”

Jenala, a lady in Malawi, has her eyes examined by a health worker.

Jenala heard there was a Trachoma Initiative eye health screening service taking place in her community which she could access for free. Her eyes were examined by a health worker and she was diagnosed with trichiasis, the advanced and potentially blinding stage of trachoma, in both of her eyes.

Jenala was quickly referred for surgery to ease her pain and protect her sight. After having the procedure to correct her eyelids that had turned inwards, scraping the front of her eye, Jenala was amazed at the difference.  She said: “I was so happy that this condition was treatable, I used to spend much of the time indoors, but now I can go out, I can cook, fetch water and do any housework chores without any problem.”

Jenala, a lady from Malawi, smiles.

Jenala is one of 89,000 people who have had surgery or other treatment to protect their sight through the Trachoma Initiative. Stories like hers demonstrate the impact the Trachoma Initiative is having on people’s lives and inspires us to build on our efforts and continue the progress that is being made to eliminate this disease for good.

Learn more about our work.

First photo credit: © Sightsavers/Jason J Mulikita

Jenala photos credit: © The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust/Siegfried M