Today, the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) shares its commitment to, and solidarity with, all communities affected by the ongoing spread of COVID-19, as well as health workers and health ministries at the forefront of protecting communities.
As a coalition of trachoma stakeholders, ICTC remains committed to supporting health ministries and communities in progress towards the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem. We recognise that the current public health emergency poses an unprecedented challenge for governments, public and international institutions and global citizens. It also highlights the interconnectedness of today’s globalised world and the need for a comprehensive public health response that protects the most vulnerable groups in societies. In light of this, the ICTC Executive Group, supported by the ICTC Strategy Task Team, have agreed to a longer timeframe for the development of the 2021 – 2025 ICTC strategic plan, informed by the impact of COVID-19 on the global trachoma programme.
Last month, in the G7 statement of 16 March 2020, leaders pledged to do “whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts”. Implementation of this commitment is urgently needed during this time and ICTC stands at the ready to support our colleagues and communities at all levels of the health system.
We urge everyone to follow the World Health Organization’s advice on personal hygiene measures such as regular hand-washing, covering one’s mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing (and then disposing of tissue immediately), avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, implementing self-isolation (physical distancing), and staying at home if any COVID-19 symptoms are suspected.
ICTC stands together with affected communities and health ministries in support of the WHO’s interim guidance for the implementation of NTD programmes issued this week. Recommendations include to postpone till further notice community-based surveys, active case-finding activities and mass treatment campaigns. Recognising WHO’s guidance to encourage prompt diagnosis, treatment and care of NTDs for patients presenting to healthcare facilities, ICTC remains committed in partnership to support health authorities through the use of existing NTD platforms, surveillance mechanisms and WASH/health education opportunities to support implementation of COVID-19 – related measures as appropriate. Further details on this guidance can be found here.
COVID-19 shines a light on our common humanity and shared vulnerabilities, and it is only through a collective, collaborative response that all our fundamental interests can be served. ICTC hopes that all people find the strength and resilience to get through this difficult time and is ready to support governments as a community of trachoma and global health partners to overcome this public health emergency.