Stronger Together! Working to eliminate trachoma in Uganda by 2019

Partners working to eliminate trachoma in Uganda came together to celebrate World Sight Day in Nakapiripirit District in Northern Uganda. The theme was ‘Stronger Together’ and this event was a celebration of some of the milestones reached by the partnership.

Commemorating the World Sight Day in Karamoja Region

Various development partners working through the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Trust under the Trachoma Initiative in Uganda joined hands on 13th October to celebrate World Sight Day at Nakapiripirit District in Northern Uganda.

This year’s commemoration was influenced by the partners call to accelerate trachoma interventions in the Karamoja region to ensure that the 2019 goal of eliminating trachoma in Uganda is achieved.

In the spirit of the 2016 World Sight Day theme, ‘Stronger Together’, the event was a celebration of the milestones that have been achieved through the cooperation of state and non-state actors.

Since the inception of the programme three years ago, over 21,000 trachoma trichiasis surgeries have taken place in some of Uganda’s most trachoma endemic areas. Additionally, six endemic districts now have facial cleanliness activities such as behaviour change programmes and health education, as well as environmental improvement activities of which four are in Busoga, Eastern Uganda, and two in Karamoja. Other districts are expected to begin these activities by beginning of 2017

The strength of the partnership with CBM

The trachoma programme is managed through the guidance of the Uganda’s Ministry of Health together with implementing partners drawn from the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC). These partners include; The Carter Center, Sightsavers, CBM, RTI International, WaterAid, John Hopkins Center for Communication Programmes and Water Missions International alongside other local implementing partners.

CBM has been at the forefront in offering screening and surgical interventions to trachoma patients under the World Health Organization (WHO) led strategy on eliminating Trachoma by 2020, commonly referred to as  the ‘SAFE’strategy (Surgery,  Mass Drug Administration of Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement).

Through the Trust Trachoma Initiative, CBM has over the past 36 months facilitated surgeries for 3,628 people and the training of more than 500 health workers in Trachoma elimination strategies including 17 Trachoma trichiasis (TT) surgeons.

In his opening remarks, the Nakapiripirit District Health Officer (DHO), Dr. John Anguzu applauded the collective efforts that all the development partners have made to ensure that Trachoma is on the verge of being eliminated in the area. ‘We have seen the spirit and the strength of working together in partnership and I want to commend all the partners who through the guidance of the Ministry of Health, have been able to start this project towards trachoma elimination.’

The same sentiments were echoed by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr. Astrid Bonfield, whose speech was read by a representative from the Trust, Ms. Michaela Kelly. “The theme of this year’s World Sight Day is “Stronger Together” which is very fitting for Uganda, where partners have joined forces to eliminate blinding trachoma. By working together with government, eye-health experts, INGOs and communities, we are making great progress towards hitting the World Health Organization’s target to eliminate blinding trachoma once and for all by 2020.”

Facts on Blinding Trachoma in Uganda

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, responsible for the visual impairment of about 2.2 million people, of whom 1.2 million are irreversibly blind.

It is estimated that 10 million people live at risk of the disease in Uganda.

Assessments in 36 endemic districts indicate that Uganda is on track to eliminating blinding trachoma as a public health issue, by 2020.

The government’s confidence in the programme

Speaking at the event, The Chief Guest, Hon. John Byabagambi - Minister for Karamoja Affairs, was quick to point out that the programme is a great effort in the right direction.

‘Karamoja has grown and is thriving after many years of insecurity. No one wanted to venture in this area because of that. But today, lots of investments have started streaming into the area through various development organizations. Among these investments are health initiatives such as trachoma elimination in Karamoja,’ he said. 

The minister also urged the beneficiaries of the trachoma health interventions to share their experience with the community for greater uptake of the project activities.‘I would like to urge all those who have gone through the TT surgeries to pass the message back home to those who have not come to hospital to help bring to an end blinding trachoma in Karamoja. I believe in the Ibanda saying that ‘the strength that is together, helps to break the bone.’  Thank you for the joint effort to break the ‘bone’ that is Trachoma.’