Extraordinary commitments and remarkable partnerships

22 Dec 2015 
by Teshome Gebre
| Regional Director for Africa, Internation Trachoma Initiative (ITI)
Teshome Gebre, Regional Director for Africa, Internation Trachoma Initiative (ITI)

November saw yet another milestone in our journey towards the conspicuous goal of eliminating blinding trachoma by 2020 with the celebration of the 500 millionth dose of Zithromax donation by Pfizer.  This event marked not only the extraordinary commitment and generosity of the donors but also the remarkable public private partnership between the donor and recipient countries.  

As the saying goes, 'the first blow is half the battle' and the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP) has already dealt a heavy blow against the stronghold of trachoma by revealing the whereabouts and extent of infection.  Accordingly, after more than a decade of piece-meal trachoma control interventions, endemic countries have now progressed into developing full-blown and clearly targeted large-scale trachoma elimination action plans. The pathway to eliminating blinding trachoma has been carefully charted. 

As the saying goes, 'the first blow is half the battle'

The generous financial support and commitment of the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia is fundamental to achieving this milestone. Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health for the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, acknowledged that these partnerships are strong assets and sources of optimism for achieving the global goal of trachoma elimination in his keynote remarks during the milestone celebration in Denbeli Keta village, Wolisso, Oromia.

He said, "Having this kind of highly potent and effective antibiotic, Pfizer-donated Zithromax and financial and technical supports from USAID, DFID, AusAid and other partners coupled with the strong commitments and readiness of endemic countries in implementing the whole package of SAFE strategy, there is nothing that can hold us back from achieving the predetermined goal." Dr Worku also underscored the fact that Ethiopia is poised to achieve elimination by 2020 not only for trachoma but also for other NTDs as stipulated in the national strategic plan.

The pathway to eliminating blinding trachoma has been carefully charted

Mr Eshetu Dessie, Vice president of Oromia National Regional State, reaffirmed his government’s commitment in scaling up trachoma interventions in the region. In particular, Mr Eshetu pointed out the great progress being made in his region with safe water supply provision (more than 50% of trachoma endemic districts in the region are under the “One-WASH program) and the deployment of 13,206 health extension workers in the entire region who are working very hard addressing hygiene and sanitation issues as potential indicators of success.  

Oromia, being the largest region of the country with about 35 million people and the corresponding high burden of trachoma, has been doing its best to implement the roadmap for trachoma elimination. Mr Eshetu acknowledged the generous support his region has been receiving from the donors like Pfizer, USAID, DFID and other key partners like the Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF), which is the lead co-implementing organization in the region. Partners representing USAID, DFID, Pfizer and Lions Clubs International Foundation gave messages of solidarity expressing their continued commitment for trachoma/NTD elimination globally.