Balla Musa Joof, Sightsavers’ country director for The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, said: “The elimination of trachoma in The Gambia is a huge achievement. After decades of hard work, our children can grow up without fear of this disease, and our government can direct resources toward tackling other health issues.
“We have shown to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa that elimination is possible. It’s a huge task, but with collaboration and partnership, it can be done.”
Trachoma was eliminated in The Gambia thanks to partnership between the ministry of health and the National Eye Health Programme, as well as local communities, the World Health Organization, Sightsavers, UNICEF, the Medical Research Unit for The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the International Trachoma Initiative, which provided Pfizer-donated antibiotics.
Together, the partners delivered the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements) to prevent the spread of the infection and lead to elimination.
Early research in The Gambia looked at using the antibiotic azithromycin to treat trachoma, which is now the most common way to treat the disease.
It is possible that we will see trachoma eliminated in our lifetime. The Gambia joins 11 other countries that have eliminated the disease, including Ghana, Oman, Morocco and Mexico. This means millions of people no longer live with the pain, suffering and blindness it can cause.