Initiative launched to help end blinding trachoma in Uganda

18 Nov 2014

Today, the Uganda government launched an historic five-year Initiative to make significant advances towards the elimination of blinding trachoma across the country over the next five years, with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust).

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative, spearheaded by the Uganda Ministry of Health, aims to treat and protect people suffering from this painful disease across the endemic regions. The Uganda government will be working with members of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), including Sightsavers who are grant managers of the Initiative, and The Carter Center who will be leading the programme at a national level.

The Trust was established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. With a mission to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth in honour of The Queen, the Trust has chosen to make the elimination of avoidable blindness a major focus of its work.

Of the 229 million people living in trachoma endemic districts globally, about 10.8 million of them live in Uganda. The disease slowly and painfully robs people of their sight, as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causes irreversible blindness. Women are almost twice as likely as men to develop blinding trachoma.

Between 2014 and 2019, The Trust plans to fully eliminate blinding trachoma in Kenya and Malawi and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda. It will also tackle the disease in other Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and in Australia. The Initiative is based on a large-scale programme of Surgery, Antibiotic distribution, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement initiatives. This tried and tested strategy, known as SAFE, is endorsed by the World Health Organization and has already yielded strong results in other Commonwealth countries such as Ghana.

Dr. Edridah Tukahebwa, NTD National Coordinator, Ministry of Health commented:

“In honour of Her Majesty the Queen, Uganda highly appreciates The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust for selecting Uganda as one of the five African countries supported by the Trust Initiative Funds for the progress towards the elimination of trachoma. Over 5 million Ugandans will benefit from this generous support. As a country, we are committed to contribute to the global Trachoma Elimination Initiative by 2020”.

Sir John Major, Chairman of the Trust said:

"I am delighted that the Trust is working with the Government of Uganda to support their work in eliminating blinding trachoma across the country. Through this Initiative, the Trust seeks to make a real and enduring difference to people who are needlessly blind, in the name of Her Majesty The Queen."

Professor KH Martin Kollmann, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) and CBM Senior Advisor for NTDs commented:

"The ICTC is extremely excited to see the launch of this trachoma programme. Blinding trachoma has a devastating personal and economic impact on people affected and their families. The ICTC through the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative is bringing together vast experience and the best available resources to support national programmes to make this ancient disease history."

Kelly Callahan, Director, Trachoma Control Program, The Carter Center said:

"The Trust’s Trachoma Initiative will help accelerate the progress of eliminating blinding trachoma in Uganda. The Carter Center is committed to assisting the government of Uganda and its partners in efforts to reduce the suffering from a disease that is devastating to the health and well-being of families and entire communities.”By tackling this disease, not only will the programme help save the sight of people in Uganda and elsewhere, but it will enable children and young people to stay in education, and allow people to go out to work and support themselves and their families.