RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— The Government of Nepal has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, according to a recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO). With this announcement, Nepal joins a small number of countries in achieving validation of trachoma elimination. Their success demonstrates clear progress in the global fight against NTDs for the remaining trachoma-endemic countries.
Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that can cause the eyelids to scar and, eventually, turn inwards, causing the eyelashes to rub painfully against the cornea (trichiasis) and leads to corneal opacity, the foremost infectious cause of blindness worldwide.
For more than 11 years, RTI International has provided technical assistance to national NTD programs working towards global targets for NTD control and elimination. Through ENVISION, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) flagship NTD project, RTI supports countries in all phases of NTD program implementation — from mapping disease distribution to supporting the goal of international recognition of the control or elimination of these terrible diseases. From 2012-2017, ENVISION supported the global distribution of more than 127 million treatments for trachoma.
“Nepal’s trachoma elimination success is a tangible example of the impact of USAID investment in communities and RTI’s mission to improve the human condition. Congratulations to Nepal! We are pleased to celebrate this important milestone with our partners,” said Wayne Holden, Ph.D., president and CEO, RTI International.
“When we started working in Nepal, the road towards elimination was unclear but we had confidence in the government’s capacity. This success is further evidence that NTDs can be beaten by strong health systems,” said Lisa Rotondo, ENVISION Project Director at RTI. “We are proud to be among partners like the International Trachoma Initiative and Pfizer supporting the Ministry of Health and Population to achieve this important milestone for the people of Nepal.”
USAID and RTI, through the NTD Control Program and now the ENVISION project, began supporting the Government of Nepal's efforts towards trachoma elimination in 2009.
Through the local NGO partner, Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh (NNJS), USAID and RTI provided technical and financial support for trachoma mapping of 31 districts, supported the distribution of more than 2.4 million treatments through mass treatment campaigns, conducted trachoma impact surveys in 20 districts, and assisted in the development of a trachoma elimination dossier. This dossier documents the prevalence of disease, treatments provided, the care available for those with trichiasis, and access to clean water and sanitation— all critical to achieving WHO’s validation of the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.
RTI also collaborated with Johns Hopkins University and NNJS to conduct research on the timing of trachoma surveillance. The research found it reasonable to conduct surveillance surveys two years after impact surveys had indicated that mass treatment was no longer necessary; waiting longer provided no additional benefits. In addition, a trachoma antibody test could be promising for future surveillance activities.
Nepal has also seen progress towards elimination of another NTD, lymphatic filariasis. RTI is encouraged by the Government of Nepal’s commitment to ending NTDs as demonstrated through its robust surveillance system to guard against disease resurgence, treatment of people requiring trichiasis surgery, and support of treatment for NTDs.
Through USAID’s ENVISION Project, RTI is supporting the global campaign to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. To learn more about RTI’s work fighting neglected tropical diseases, visit http://ntdenvision.org and follow us on Twitter at @RTIfightsNTDs.
The ENVISION project is implemented by RTI International and funded by USAID under cooperative agreement No. AID-OAA-A-11-00048.
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