In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020 Alliance) to mobilize resources and foster cooperation within a worldwide partnership of Member States, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. The Alliance is the principal platform through which the trachoma community works to deliver WHO’s recommended trachoma treatment and prevention strategy know as the SAFE strategy – an approach backed by the 1998 World Health Assembly resolution WHA51.11.
ICTC was originally conceived as a meeting of implementing NGOs and supporting donor organizations, to be held separately and immediately after the annual GET2020 Alliance meeting, to discuss how to support the implementation of recommendations from the Alliance.
Where trachoma programs had originally been geographically focused on a small part of a country and operationally focused on only one or two components of the SAFE strategy, ICTC members recognized the need to support national programs more comprehensively by supporting all districts and all strategy components. Implementing members soon realized the added value of sharing annual work plans to avoid duplication and maximize the use of limited resources, with each member organization contributing through their individual strengths.
ICTC members began conducting joint training activities for national staff, developing technical practice materials and cost-sharing according to the abilities of the partners and their donors. All of these activities are coordinated at the national level through national trachoma task forces.
This transparent and open approach to program development and implementation allowed programs to be harmonized within and between countries and allowed the development of context-specific resource materials based on the shared field learnings of multiple partners. As the ranks of ICTC started to grow, working groups were formed to document operational effectiveness; these documents became ICTC's series of preferred practice manuals. In 2016, these working groups were transitioned to task teams, which are timebound groups formed to deliver distinct projects.
The pursuit of operational efficiency and commitment to both quality and quantity led partners to the logical next step of purposely working together to support new country programs from the outset. Small groups of ICTC members identified implementation gaps and then developed joint funding proposals for their organizations to collaborate at the national level.
In 2011, ICTC published The end in sight: 2020 INSight, a roadmap that laid out the actions that needed to be taken to achieve the global elimination of trachoma as a public health problem by the year 2020. The impact of the roadmap was a significant boost to existing trachoma programs. It contributed to bringing the DFID and USAID-supported GTMP project to the table as well as attracting two large-scale partnership initiatives - The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative and the DFID SAFE Trachoma Program.
These three initiatives brought a staggering $150 million dollars of new funding into trachoma programs. The sheer scale of collaboration and coordination involved in these programs – over 30 partners in at least 13 countries throughout Africa and the Pacific - is a testament to the dedication and hard work of all the partners involved.
The value of ICTC lies in these collaborations; member organizations that had once considered one another competitors now work together for the benefit of the entire global program rather than acting solely in the interest of their respective organizations.
In 2016, the GET2020 Alliance released Eliminating Trachoma: Accelerating Towards 2020, an updated plan of action laying out what needs to be done to scale up programs and strengthen health systems to ensure the poorest people, those most affected by NTDs such as trachoma, are not left behind. In line with ICTC's central tenant to work together in support of the Alliance, this document provides the blueprint for the coalition's current efforts to support the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.