Myanmar has become the latest country to eliminate trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of preventable blindness - after validation results were announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month.
Through its longstanding commitment CBM has supported the government of this South-East-Asian country and worked in partnership with WHO, local and international organisations to achieve this milestone in the fight against avoidable blindness and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
"We accompanied Myanmar since the 1980s and during the difficult final steps, when the disease was no longer common, but found only in remote regions. If the fight against trachoma is stopped too early, the infection can re-emerge and spread again," explains Dr Babar Qureshi, Director of Inclusive Eye Health at CBM. "We congratulate the Government of Myanmar for achieving this significant goal – it is a great success for national health and our global efforts."
The most common infectious cause of avoidable blindness
Trachoma is one of the NTDs which, if left untreated, leads to irrevocable loss of sight. In Myanmar, the disease has long been a major challenge - when the Ministry of Health began addressing the problem in 1964, trachoma was responsible for about 60% of blindness in Myanmar. After concerted efforts this had declined to 7% by the 1990s. However, there were still about 1 million people with active trachoma infection. Many of the cases occurred in remote regions that were difficult to reach.
The government's trachoma and prevention of blindness program, supported by CBM, promoted the full WHO endorsed SAFE strategy with treatment of active infection by antibiotics to entire eligible communities, surgery for advanced disease (trichiasis) to prevent visual impairment and access to good hygiene infrastructure, clean water and sanitation to reduce transmission and sustain success. For decades, CBM procured antibiotics, trained local professionals, and helped improve general eye care services by providing medical equipment and vehicles even in remote, rural areas of Myanmar.
A lot remains to be done worldwide
Today, trachoma is still known to be a problem in 46 countries (2 currently under review for elimination) around the world and 1.9 million people are visually impaired or blind due to the infection. This is why CBM continues to fight the disease - with our partners, we distribute antibiotics, support eye surgeries and promote access to clean water and hygiene by building wells and create awareness about personal hygiene, especially the use of latrines in schools.
Read more about our work in inclusive eye health
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