It is never pleasant to have something in your eye. We rush to get it out by rubbing or flushing it with an eyewash, but what if you couldn’t? Ayishetu Abdulai, a midwife from Ghana, describes her experience as feeling something in her eye, then pain, then her vision became blurry. With no relief in sight, she thought she would go blind.
It was very difficult for her to perform her job as a midwife. She could no longer see her patients clearly and was not willing to put the births at risk. She had Trachoma. Trachoma is rare in the western world, but prevalent in Africa. Thanks to the efforts for Sightsavers, the nation of Ghana can count themselves eradicated of this disease.
Trachoma is an eye condition that is transmitted from person to person. It is common for flies to carry this bacterium. Children are most at risk because they rub their eyes then play together spreading the contagion. The infection is a type of granular conjunctivitis that causes the inner eyelid to become rough. The eyes move constantly, even in sleep, rubbing the cornea over the coarse eyelid, eventually wearing it down, causing pain and blindness.
Since 2000, Sightsavers has led the fight against Trachoma in Ghana. With the partnership of Ghana, communities, and other health organizations they were able to employ the SAFE method. SAFE stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement. Trachoma was considered one of many neglected tropical diseases.
Neglected tropical diseases are common in low-income populations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The causes vary by pathogens like viruses, bacteria, protozoans, etc. They are fairly inexpensive to treat. Treatment programs typically target more severe and fatal illnesses, like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, causing these illnesses to be placed on the back burner and neglected.
The WHO made the official announcement on June 13, 2018, that the disease that had the potential to affect 41 countries is now eliminated from one. Ghana is the first of many to come, that can say it’s citizens are no longer waiting to be blind.