Ghana has officially eliminated trachoma, the world's leading infectious cause of blindness, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced. It is the first time a WHO African Region country has been validated for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.
Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease that threatens nearly 182 million people worldwide and is responsible for the visual impairment or blindness of about 1.9 million people.
In 2000, baseline prevalence surveys showed trachoma was endemic to all 29 districts in the Northern and Upper West regions of Ghana and was estimated to affect around 2.8 million people and more than 5,000 people required surgery to treat trichiasis, the late blinding stage of the disease.
Partnership between the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, World Health Organization and members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control helped to scale up the WHO-endorsed SAFE Strategy (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, environmental improvements) to all endemic districts. This included the distribution of more than 3.3 million doses of azithromycin, donated by Pfizer.
The elimination of trachoma in Ghana is significant, not only because it is the first WHO African Region Country to achieve this status, but it means that all WHO regions have now eliminated trachoma in at least one country
“The elimination of trachoma in Ghana is significant, not only because it is the first WHO African Region Country to achieve this status, but it means that all WHO regions have now eliminated trachoma in at least one country" said Serge Resnikoff, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control. “Ghana's elimination of trachoma demonstrates the effectiveness of the SAFE Strategy when implemented appropriately and provides important lessons to other countries working towards elimination."
Ghana's official elimination comes less than one month after Nepal was validated for trachoma elimination and the 20 year anniversary of the adoption of World Health Assembly Resolution 51:11, calling for the global elimination of trachoma.
Ghana is the seventh country to eliminate trachoma alongside Oman, Morocco, Mexico, Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Kingdom of Cambodia and Nepal. 41 countries are still known to require interventions to eliminate the disease.
Partners in Ghana's elimination program include CBM, Conrad N Hilton Foundation. Community Water and Sanitation Agency, District Assemblies, Ghana Education Service, the International Coalition for Trachoma Control, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection, New Energy, Operation Eyesight Universal, Pro Net, Sightsavers, Swiss Red Cross, Task Force for Global Health, the International Trachoma Initiative, Pfizer, The Carter Center, UNICEF, USAID End in Africa/FHI360, Water Aid Ghana, WHO, World Vision Ghana