Engaging communities to prevent blindness – award for Trachoma programme


CBM has been recognised for its outstanding innovation in improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to tackle the blinding eye infection trachoma.

The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ Water Award, presented in London on 1st November, particularly recognised the way that CBM’s trachoma programme in Ethiopia engaged communities to change behaviour and provide long-term impact.

CBM’s global Eye Health Director, Dr Babar Qureshi, commented:

“I’m delighted to receive the award as recognition of the combined WASH and Neglected Tropical Diseases work being undertaken by the whole CBM team and their partners in Ethiopia in the fight against Trachoma in the Amhara Region”. 

Improving water, sanitation and hygiene

Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye. It causes irritation, pain and, if untreated, permanent blindness – it’s the number one infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Improving water, sanitation and hygiene is vital to prevent the spread of trachoma as it is easily spread through direct contact, infected towels or cloths and flies.

CBM’s Amhara Trachoma Control Programme (ATCP) in Ethiopia, funded by the Italian government, focusses on improving community awareness of the need for face-washing and improvements to water supply. It includes:

  • Training village health educators and health workers
  • Setting up local WASH committees
  • Educating children through anti-trachoma school clubs
  • Hydrological analysis and water point selection
  • Construction of community water supply schemes.

Involving members of the community, male and female and of all ages, is a key part of the programme, along with involving local government and other partners. A mid-term evaluation in 2016 revealed that increasing awareness had resulted in strong community participation in the construction of latrines and water wells and changes in behaviour.