Partners around the world are celebrating WHO’s declaration that Morocco has eliminated trachoma, a painful and debilitating neglected tropical disease which can lead to loss of sight if left untreated. This achievement, which has benefited from strong country leadership and collaboration amongst a range of different partners, is both great news for Morocco and an inspiration for other countries in the region and beyond.
Trachoma is an infectious disease that can develop into a condition in which eyelids turn inwards and eyelashes scrape the eyeball, causing pain, corneal cloudiness and irreversible blindness. In 2000, trachoma-related blindness was a risk to 1.5 million people in Morocco.
Morocco was one of the first countries to implement the comprehensive SAFE strategy, an innovative public health approach designed to treat and prevent trachoma, at scale. Progress was rapid thanks in large part to government buy-in at all levels, strong partnerships and a commitment to the provision of safe drinking water and improved sanitation for at-risk populations. Morocco’s early success provided a catalyst for efforts to eliminate the disease worldwide and provides a particularly inspiring example to countries in the final mile to disease elimination.
Dr Babar Qureshi, Chair of the Eastern Mediterranean Region Alliance, which works to support the elimination of trachoma in the region, welcomed the news:
“Congratulations to the Moroccan government for this wonderful achievement. The work to combat trachoma in Morocco provides a model to other nations to catalyse progress in their own countries.”
Many stakeholders supported the achievement of this momentous milestone. The country program benefited from valuable support of partners including WHO, international nongovernmental organizations such as Helen Keller International, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Hassan II Foundation, UNICEF, the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) and Pfizer.
ICTC members join WHO in congratulating the Moroccan government and all the partners who have supported the implementation of the SAFE strategy in the country.
Helen Keller International worked with the Moroccan government to implement a health behaviour and a women’s literacy project funded by the Conrad N Hilton Foundation.
Joe Amon, Helen Keller International Vice President for Neglected Tropical Diseases:
“It was a privilege to work with Morocco’s National Blindness Control Program and other partners towards trachoma elimination. This success is a testament to the political commitment of the government and shows the continued momentum of global elimination efforts.”
ITI, which manages Pfizer’s donation of the antibiotic used to treat trachoma, joined the Moroccan government in 1999 to strengthen the country’s existing efforts to control trachoma. The last decade has seen a massive international scale-up of the donation program and Pfizer continues to focus its resources on working with partners to achieve elimination by 2020, providing antibiotics free of charge to any country that applies for it.
Paul Emerson, ITI Director:
“The success of the Pfizer donation of Zithromax® to Morocco was a positive demonstration and actually accelerated the whole global donation program. We are really proud to have played a supporting role for the Ministry of Health.”
Virginia Sarah, International Coalition for Trachoma Control Chair:
“Morocco is a shining example of what is possible when partners come together with a common goal. Today our community celebrates the tremendous news that Morocco has officially eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. We offer our congratulations to the Government and people of Morocco. We also remember the more than 200 million people who continue to live in trachoma-endemic communities around the world. These people’s plight requires urgent attention now. Let’s make sure we help them to follow Morocco’s example.”
Read more about what global partners have achieved and are planning in order to eliminate trachoma by the year 2020 in the WHO Alliance for GET2020 plan of action: www.trachomacoalition.org/GET2020
Read the WHO press release - Morocco eliminates trachoma – the leading infectious cause of blindness