To mark its tenth anniversary and celebrate some of the outstanding achievements of the trachoma community, the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) has awarded the MacCallan Medal to trachoma expert and passionate advocate Dr Wondu Alemayehu, who has worked tirelessly to prepare his home country of Ethiopia for scale up of trachoma elimination programs.
The ICTC MacCallan Medal was presented at the 2014 Neglected Tropical Disease NGDO Network meeting in Paris, in which over 180 representatives from NGDOs, donors and governments of endemic countries came together to share experiences and best practices. The award honours Arthur Ferguson MacCallan, an ophthalmologist who carried out pioneering work on trachoma in Egypt between 1903 and 1923 and developed the MacCallan Classification of Trachoma, the first grading system used to standardize diagnosis.
Dr Wondu Alemayehu was recognized for his significant contribution to the success of trachoma mapping in Ethiopia and his efforts to scale up programming in Oromia, Tigray, Somali and SNNPR regions of Ethiopia. He also was recognized for his contribution to Ethiopia’s strong positioning and emerging readiness to attract program partners and other donors to its elimination efforts.
ICTC Chair and Senior Advisor for Neglected Tropical Diseases at CBM Dr Martin Kollmann, who presented the award, said: "Wondu’s work demonstrates a strong spirit of collaboration and tenacity as well as a focus on ensuring quality in scale up. We hope his fine example will motivate and invigorate all our efforts and assist in attracting many more new partners."
Dr Wondu Alamayehu, technical advisor to The Fred Hollows Foundation, accepted the award, in his words, "on behalf of all who are contributing to the extraordinary work being performed in the last decade in alignment with the World Health Organization’s GET 2020 initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020."
Dr Wondu Alamayehu also reflected on his first experience seeing trachoma 30 years ago when he was a graduate student in ophthalmology in Ethiopia, “The image of an affected mother in severe discomfort from blinding trachoma working in the confined space (of home) filled with smoke, preparing meals for her family despite agonizing pain was a heart-breaking experience that always stays with me. Indeed trachoma is a mother and child disease that thrives in situations where there is poor utilization of water and sanitary facilities.”
Ethiopia has the highest burden of trachoma in the world. In 2012, the Oromia region contained the largest unmapped area of the country for suspected disease burden and was the least supported in terms of NGO partner engagement for trachoma elimination initiatives. More than 200 districts in Ethiopia are now working to eliminate trachoma through partnership of the Federal Ministry of Health, Regional Health Bureaus and many international and local development partners.