The Government of Canada has pledged CAD$15 million (USD$11.2 million) to support efforts to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
The five-year program, announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, USA, will increase access to the World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed SAFE strategy in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru, where approximately 5.6 million people are at risk of trachoma.
In these countries, the program will promote intercultural and gender approaches to accelerate the elimination of trachoma. The initiatives will reinforce information systems, increase local health workers’ capacities, empower women and communities, strengthen inclusive and intercultural dialogues, and enhance cross-sectoral collaboration, particularly with water, sanitation, and hygiene stakeholders.
The investment will support trachoma rapid assessments and surveys in countries where trachoma is suspected to be a public health problem, including Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, and Venezuela. It will also reinforce post-validation surveillance in Mexico, which achieved the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in 2017.
“The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) celebrates Canada's contribution to support trachoma elimination efforts”, said PJ Hooper, Chair, ICTC. “The WHO Region of the Americas has been proactive in formulating and implementing regional policies to offer integrated health services to hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations. This investment will bolster these policy initiatives and profoundly impact the people and communities that require access to trachoma interventions.”
In a statement to ICTC, the Honourable Senator Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia said, “Canada's landmark investment to eliminate trachoma-related blindness in the Americas is a testament to our commitment to global health equity. By allocating significant resources to this cause, we are not only saving sight but also fostering stronger, healthier communities throughout the region.”
The announcement was also celebrated by Dr Martha Saboyá, Neglected Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Advisor at the Pan-American Health Organization, who said, “PAHO gratefully acknowledges the investment generously provided by the Canadian Government. This initiative will strengthen health systems while improving the health of hard-to-reach and marginalized communities, including women and children from indigenous and nomadic populations through the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in 10 prioritized countries.”
Trachoma disproportionately impacts people in vulnerable environments, especially indigenous communities living in the WHO Region of the Americas. This contribution is intended to support regional and country programs to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, while also strengthening health infrastructure that will facilitate the integration of eye health, skin-related neglected tropical diseases, and other communicable disease interventions.