Ghana has officially eradicated trachoma, being the first African nation to do so, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. Inflamed granulation of the inner surface of the lids often leads to blindness. Early stage symptoms will include a mild itching and irritation to the eyes and eyelids. Progressive stages cause blurry vision or eye pain. Although the disease is common throughout Sub Saharan Africa, it is easily treatable with antibiotics or surgery in later stages.
“It’s been 20 years since the global health community committed to eliminating trachoma worldwide,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, the WHO director-general. “Although there’s more work to do elsewhere, the validation of elimination in Ghana allows another previously heavily-endemic country to celebrate significant success.”
Agatha Aboe is the global trachoma advisor of Sight Savers, a non-government organization (NGO) that is fighting towards complete eradication of the disease. She recently told Scidev.Net that Ghana’s accomplishment is a great relief for people in the North and Upper West regions of the country where over two million were at-risk of contracting the infection.
Being endemic in more arid regions, places lacking in sufficient road networks are more susceptible.
The disease also adversely affected education and graduation rates because children were too frightened to leave their homes, even for school. Being at school means being in close contact with many people at one time, and trachoma is contracted by direct and indirect contact.
Forty-five-year-old Fusseina Alhassen of Northern Ghana expressed immense happiness when she heard that trachoma is no longer an issue in the country, stating that her nieces and nephews missing out on an education is no longer a fear of hers.
Program manager of Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit, Ghana Health Service, Benjamin Marfo, tells Scidev that the government created a special unit back in 2009. Created in order to fight the disease, its main objective was to perform surgeries on affected individuals, facial and environmental cleanliness, and providing antibiotics to all 37 endemic regions in Northern and Upper West Ghana.
“There must be mass drug administration in case there is an outbreak,” Marfo adds.
Marfo believes that government collaboration with NGOs helped to provide latrines and safe drinking water for at-risk communities. Because of this, he urges countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Uganda and Zimbabwe, which are experiencing a trachoma crisis, to invest in environmental cleanliness and safe drinking water.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.