WHO has recognized Benin and Mali as having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, making them the fifth and sixth countries in the WHO Africa Region to reach this important milestone. Countries previously verified by WHO for trachoma elimination are Ghana (June 2018), Gambia (April 2021), Togo (May 2022) and Malawi (September 2022).
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “WHO congratulates the health authorities in Benin and Mali and their network of global and local partners for achieving these milestones.” “Following the successes of Benin and Mali, trachoma remains endemic in 23 countries in the WHO African Region, meeting the trachoma elimination targets set in the 2021-2030 Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap. One step closer.”
Globally, Benin and Mali join 15 other countries verified by WHO to have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. These are Cambodia, China, Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu.
Eliminating Trachoma Using WHO’s SAFE Strategy
Both Benin and Mali, with the support of WHO and partners, have implemented WHO-recommended SAFE strategies to eliminate trachoma. A SAFE strategy consists of surgery to treat late-onset complications of trachoma. Antibiotics to clear the infection. cleanliness of the face. Improving the environment, especially access to water and sanitation, to reduce infection. The antibiotic azithromycin is donated by Pfizer through the International Trachoma Initiative to an eradication program that implements the SAFE strategy.
Benin, under the umbrella of the National Communicable Diseases Programme, integrates trachoma eradication interventions with those implemented against other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Trachoma is the third NTD to be eliminated in Benin, after drakunkyriasis (2009) and Gambian African trypanosomiasis (2021).
Despite security challenges and recent socio-political turmoil in the country’s northern regions, Mali has conducted trachoma impact and surveillance studies and deployed interventions to achieve its eradication goals. Trachoma was the first NTD to be eliminated in Mali, joining a global group of 47 countries that have eliminated at least one NTD.
“These are remarkable achievements in public health,” said Dr Ibrahima Sosse Faure, WHO Global NTD Program Director. “Benin and Mali show how strong political will, cross-sectoral integration, surveillance and community engagement can work together to achieve disease eradication.”
Over the past few years, great progress has been made in the fight against trachoma. The number of people in the WHO Africa Region requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma has fallen by 84 million from 189 million in 2014 to 105 million as of June 2022.
Distributed by the APO Group on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO).