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The Trachoma Initiative

This five-year programme, funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, provided 26.6 million antibiotic eye treatments and 102,400 sight-saving operations to help eliminate trachoma in seven countries.

An eye health worker in Malawi checks a woman's eyes for signs of trachoma.

What we’ve learned from the Trachoma Initiative

Read the report (pdf)

How did the programme work?

The Trachoma Initiative, which began in 2014,  has supported ministries of health to fight trachoma by following the SAFE strategy, a four-pronged approach approved by the World Health Organization.

The SAFE acronym stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements: this has proven to be the most effective way of ridding communities of trachoma.

The programme ran in seven African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

A key part of the programme has been making sure local health care providers have the skills, resources and staff to prevent trachoma, now and in the future, so they can respond to cases should new outbreaks occur.

A close-up of a school student washing her hands using water running from a tap in a large water butt.

SAFE: a strategy to control trachoma

This public health approach covers four methods used to stop the spread of the disease.

More about SAFE

What did the programme achieve?

Two nurses and a surgeon are working on a patient.

Training eye health staff

The Trachoma Initiative has trained local health workers to improve their skills. Surgeons have received training and certification, while case finders have learned to diagnose trachoma.

A close-up of a man holding some paperwork.

Developing expertise

The programme has developed new approaches that can be used in future to ensure the SAFE strategy continues to be effective, and the impact will be felt long after the programme ends.

An eye health worker examines a woman's eyes to check for signs of trachoma.

Progress against NTDs

All countries who took part have made strides towards eliminating trachoma. Malawi is in a two-year surveillance period, after which WHO will confirm it has eliminated the disease.

How the initiative has changed lives

Dr Ndalela examines a child's eyes for signs of trachoma.
Dr Ndalela has been trained as part of the programme, and now travels across Zambia by motorbike to treat people in remote communities who have no access to healthcare.

Looking to the future

Many countries are working towards eliminating trachoma, but sustained, high-quality programmes are needed to enable them to achieve this.

The insight provided by the Trachoma Initiative is helping us to understand what works when it comes to tackling the disease, and will be a vital source of information as countries continue on the path towards trachoma elimination.

This video explains more about the work of the Trachoma Initiative.

You can help our life-changing work to continue

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Which organisations were involved?

Sightsavers coordinated the initiative on behalf of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control, collaborating with ministries of health, affected communities, the UK aid-funded DFID SAFE programme (in Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia) and a network of other partners and programmes.

Implementing partners include ITI, The Fred Hollows Foundation, WaterAid, RTI International, Operation Eyesight, Light for The World, John Hopkins, Helen Keller International, CBM, The Carter Center, AMREF and KCCO.

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust was a time-limited charitable foundation, which was established in 2012 to mark and celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In January 2020, the Trust successfully completed its programmes and ceased operating as a grant-making organisation.

A child in Senegal holds antibiotic tablets in his hand.

More about trachoma

Dr Ndalela examines a boy's eyes and applies ointment to ease the symptoms of trachoma.
sightsavers_news

Sightsavers awarded grant to help eliminate trachoma in Zambia

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has awarded Sightsavers a grant of US$2.19 million to help fight the disease.

January 2024
Lanoi stands outside and smiles with her hands on top of her head. She looks off to the right.
Sightsavers Reports

Our sights are set on eliminating trachoma in Kenya

Ophthalmic nurse Jeremiah Gwafa was first inspired to work in eye health as a child, after seeing the impact of blindness on his own family.

Eye care staff perform trachoma surveys on children in Cote D'Ivoire.
sightsavers_news

Sightsavers and RSTMH host learning event on large-scale trachoma programmes

The online event will share key findings on eliminating trachoma from a new collection of research papers published in the International Health journal.

December 2023