On Tuesday, 18 November 2014, CBM joined other partners in the Launch of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative in Uganda. During the function, the National Trachoma Action plan for Uganda 2014 to 2018 was also launched.
The launch of the Trachoma Initiative
The event themed Working to Eliminate Blinding Trachoma in Uganda by 2020 was held at Kagoma Primary School, Buwenge Rural Sub-county, Jinja District and was graced by the Minister of Health for Uganda, Honourable Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye and the CEO of the Trust, Dr. Astrid Bonfield among other local and international guests. The colourful event which was characterised by song, music and dance was also graced by the Kyabazinga Cultural leaders, local political leaders, development partners, school children and the community at large. CBM representation was led by Dr. Babar Qureshi, Global Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) who was joined by the heads of the CBM implementing partner organisations in Uganda.
The event was the fourth in a series of launches under the Trust Trachoma programme after Kenya (1 October 2014 in Nairobi); Malawi (16 October in Lilongwe); Mozambique (14 November 2014).
The local community leaders in their welcome remarks appreciated the choice of venue, given that Trachoma is endemic in Busoga, and thanked the guests for honouring the invitation on the occasion of the launch. They indicated that it was a privilege for them to host the launch and extended their appreciation to other partners such as RTI/USAID, WHO, Standard Chartered Bank, John Hopkins University and the Lions, who work in the area towards the elimination of Trachoma and furthermore support the provision of eye care services. They were particularly pleased that eye problems would no longer be associated with the people of Busoga as has been the case in the past. Poverty, ignorance, poor sanitation and traditional beliefs were highlighted as among the causes for continued trachoma endemicity in the region and all political leaders were urged to join the government and development partners in the fight against Trachoma.
Buwenge School presented a song that touched on the causes of Trachoma, how it is spread, how it can be avoided, its management and the role of each person in the community in ensuring that Trachoma becomes a thing of the past.
CBM’s fight against Trachoma
Speaking on behalf of Professor K. H. Martin Kollmann, the Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), Dr. Qureshi began by describing the ICTC as a large coalition of like-minded partners who provide both technical and financial support to overcome various challenges facing the fight against Trachoma - including quality, scale-up, and capacity development. The ICTC he said is committed at all levels through its partners and working together through these partners will ensure the eliminiation of trachoma.
Dr. Qureshi on his part communicated his pleasure in being a part of this important milestone for Uganda. He described CBM as an international development organisation that works towards improving the quality of life of people living with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world. CBM he said works through partners including Benedictine Eye Hospital, Kumi Mission Hospital and CORSU (Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services of Uganda) in Uganda focusing on local capacity development. He expressed his delight in being part of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust funded programme for Trachoma Elimination in Uganda by the year 2020 which will be working through its partners to support over 10,000 surgeries in 5 districts. He concluded by extending his appreciation to the Trust for providing much needed resources.
Dr. Astrid Bonfield, CEO of the Trust
In her speech Dr. Astrid Bonfield highlighted Uganda as one of the 10 countries in Africa, the Pacific and Australia seeking change. She thanked the development partners present indicating that as a result of their combined expertise, shared determination, and teamwork, safe and cost effective ways elimination could be achieved. She further reminded all partners present that collectively they would be judged by what they achieve and urged that they be held to account.
Speech by the Minister for Health, Uganda
The Minister for Health, Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye in his remarks highlighted the magnitude of Trachoma in Uganda with 36 districts affected and 10 million people at risk. He indicated that the cause of Trachoma was known and that the disease was not caused by witchcraft. He thanked Pfizer (a pharmaceutical company) for donating drugs and the Trust and other development partners present for providing money. Shortly thereafter he launched the National Trachoma Action plan 2014 - 2018 which he believes is one of the ingredients needed for Uganda to eliminate Trachoma.