The World Health Organization announced on June 13 that the nation of Ghana has become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate the eye disease trachoma and said that the disease is no longer a public health issue in the country. This is a stunning turn of events for the country that the organization Sightsavers has worked with since the year 2000 when nearly three million Ghanaians were identified as at-risk for contracting trachoma.
Statistics cited by the Sightsavers organization show that more than 200 million people from 41 countries are on the continent of Africa are at risk for contracting trachoma. The breakthrough in Ghana is evidence that the prospect of totally eliminating the disease is possible and it is hoped that other countries will now approach the goal with renewed vigor.
Simon Bush, A director with Sightsavers, says that Ghana was able to eliminate the painful eye disease by showing determination and hard work while collaborating with Sightsavers and other entities. Bush went on to say that the elimination of this disease that had ruined the lives of too many people in the country was made possible by a global alliance that worked well together. Bush said that this alliance included government agencies, funding sources, pharmaceutical companies and local community members and leaders.
Trachoma is a communicable eye disease that is spread by flies and human interaction. Sanitation problems linked to poverty have been known to exacerbate problems with the containment of the disease. Trachoma begins its cycle as a bacterial infection and if not treated in a timely and proper manner will begin to turn the lashes of the eye inward until they begin to scratch at the eyeball. This painful condition can also cause irreversible blindness in patients.
Women in Africa have been four times more likely to suffer the effects of advanced Trachoma than men. One Ghanaian woman, Ayishetu Abdulai, a midwife that lives in the area of Yendi, is a former sufferer of trachoma. Ms. Abdulai was interviewed during the last campaign ran by her country to provide surgeries to sufferers of trachoma.
Ms. Abdulai says that she suffered for over a year with the disease and that she often felt the painful sensation of something pricking her eye. The midwife says that the disease for all practical purposes rendered her useless to perform her job duties and says that she is extremely grateful that Sightsavers was able to help restore her life to normal.