MAPUTO, Mozambique – As part of an effort to end blindness caused by trachoma, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust named RTI International the coordinating agency to provide essential support to the Mozambique Trachoma Control Programme for scaling-up trichiasis surgery in Mozambique through implementing partners Sightsavers and Light for the World.
The surgery is a key component of the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, Environmental Improvement) strategy to eliminate blinding trachoma.
"By tackling this disease, not only will the national programme help save the sight of people in Mozambique and elsewhere, but it will enable children and young people to stay in education, and allow people to go out to work and support themselves and their families," said Sharone Backers, RTI resident program advisor, Mozambique.
Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that, upon repeated infection, causes the eyelids to scar and ultimately turn inward (known as trichiasis or blinding trachoma). Blinding trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world, accounts for about 3 percent of the world's blindness. At present, 110 million people live in areas where the disease is confirmed to be endemic and 4.6 million are in the advanced stages of the disease.
A simple surgical procedure can reverse the damaging effects of trichiasis in individuals. Additionally, entire communities can be treated with an annual dose of the antibiotic Zithromax to prevent trachoma.
The project plans to provide more than 6,000 surgeries in four provinces (Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Tete) by 2016, reducing the ultimate intervention goal of 7,498 trachoma surgeries by more than 80 percent in those provinces.
Support from the Trust will complement RTI's current activities with the Mozambique Ministry of Health and other partners to achieve national elimination of trachoma. With technical and logistic support from RTI, Mozambique successfully initiated its first distribution of Zithromax in June 2013; the national program has also completed all trachoma mapping nationwide as Zithromax distributions scale-up to areas with high prevalence of trachoma.
The Trust's investment in the SAFE strategy will allow national programs to offer surgery to people at immediate risk of blindness, distribute antibiotics, improve awareness of the importance of face washing, and support measures to improve sanitation. These activities are designed to support Mozambique in reaching the goal of successfully controlling trachoma by 2020.
RTI is a global leader in neglected tropical disease control and elimination. Since 2006, RTI has worked in close partnership with more than 20 neglected tropical disease endemic countries to help integrate and scale up their national programs for diseases that can be tackled with preventive chemotherapy: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma.
The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth.