Malawi becomes 15th country to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem

21 Sep 2022

Malawi has been validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem. Malawi is the fourth country in the WHO Africa Region and 15th country globally to achieve this milestone. 

Malawi has been working to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem since baseline trachoma prevalence surveys were conducted in 2008 which confirmed that 17 out of 28 districts in the country were trachoma endemic. This led the Ministry of Health in Malawi to establish the country’s first National Trachoma Control Program in 2011 and launch a formal national trachoma action plan in 2014.

Between 2014 through 2019, elimination efforts were further accelerated with an infusion of support from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative, which boosted scale-up of all components of the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy. 

The Trachoma Initiative, which was an International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) partnership initiative, managed bv Sightsavers, applied a comprehensive approach to tackle trachoma within the country. This included training and certifying ophthalmic clinicians as trachomatous trichiasis (TT) surgeons; distributing antibiotics donated by Pfizer through the International Trachoma Initiative to all at risk populations; establishing community-based awareness raising campaigns; and improving access to clean water and sanitation. 

“The elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Malawi provides important examples to countries across the region that are working to eliminate the disease by 2030”, said Dr Angelia Sanders, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control. 

“Increased mapping; the development of a national trachoma program to implement all components of the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy; innovative solutions to tackle human resources challenges; and purposeful integration of trachoma interventions into the formal health system are cornerstones of a successful trachoma elimination program. ICTC congratulates Malawi for its commitment to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.”

In 2021, WHO published a global road map for neglected tropical diseases (2021-2030), which targets trachoma for global elimination as a public health problem by 2030. Globally, significant progress has been made, including a 92% reduction in the number of people at risk, from 1.5 billion in 2002 to 125 million in 2022. To date, trachoma has been eliminated as a public health problem in Cambodia, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu.