Today the Mozambican government is launching an historic five-year Initiative to make significant advances towards the elimination of blinding trachoma across the country, with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust). The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative (the Initiative), spearheaded by the Mozambique Ministry of Health, aims to treat and protect people suffering from this painful eye disease across endemic regions.
The Mozambique government will be working with ICTC members, including Sightsavers who are grant managers of the Initiative, and RTI 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 at the time of her Diamond Jubilee. 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 12.2 million of them live in endemic areas in Mozambique. The disease slowly and painfully robs people of their sight, as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causes irreversible blindness. Womenare almost twice as likely as men to develop blinding trachoma.
Between 2014 and 2019, The Trust plans to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem in Kenya and Malawi and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda. It will also tackle the disease in Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and 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.
Sir John Major, Chairman of the Trust said:
"I am delighted that the Trust is working with the Government of Mozambique 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, ICTC's Chair and CBM Senior Advisor for NTDs commented:
"It is extremely exciting to launch this ambitious trachoma programme. Blinding trachoma has a devastating personal and economic impact on people affected and their families. The ICTC is bringing together vast experience and the best available resources to support national programmes to make this ancient disease history."
Sharone Backers, Resident Program Advisor, Mozambique, RTI International said:
“We are excited to be continuing our relationship with the Government of Mozambique and thankful that the Trust can help expand our efforts, for example, by supporting simple surgical procedures to reverse the damaging effects of advanced trachoma. With the correct tools in place, this programme can make significant advances towards eliminating blinding trachoma. By tackling this disease, not only will the national programme help save the sight of people in Mozambique 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."