Today, CBM joined the Ministry of Health
and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust
(The Trust) in launching the Kenya Trachoma Elimination Programme at Serena Hotel in the capital Nairobi. The £9.2million (KES 1.3 Billion) programme is geared toward the elimination of trachoma in Kenya by 2019 through a multi-sectoral approach that will seek to implement the World Health Organisation
(WHO) recommended SAFE Strategy
(Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and Environmental change) in 12 trachoma endemic counties in the country.
This five year strategic programme will work to provide over 40,000 surgeries in Isiolo, Marsabit, Meru North, Baringo, Kajiado, Laikipia, Narok, Samburu, Narok (Trans Mara), Turkana Central/ West, Kitui, Turkana North/South and West Pokot. Additionally, nearly three (3) million people will receive treatment through distribution of antibiotics. The facial cleanliness and environmental hygiene education activities will seek to reach 2.9 million at risk of contracting trachoma within the 12 trachoma endemic counties.
The chief guest at the launch, Health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia, commended the timeliness of this trachoma initiative in the country. “The Government of Kenya recognises the severity of this poverty related disease on communities and commits itself to working with all the partners to ensure we kick it out while also preventing its recurrence,” he said.
The impact of trachoma
About 21 million people, primarily in Africa, currently have active trachoma. The disease slowly and painfully robs people of their sight, as repeated infection turns eyelashes inwards, scraping the cornea and eventually causes irreversible blindness. Women, traditionally the caretakers of the home, are almost twice as likely as men to develop blinding trachoma. The disease is believed to be endemic in 53 countries. More than 80 percent of the burden of active trachoma is concentrated in 14 countries, where immediate action is needed. Every 15 minutes, someone goes blind from trachoma. Globally, trachoma causes an estimated loss of $2.9 billion in productivity each year, and blinding trachoma can have a devastating impact on whole families and communities.
Tackling trachoma in Kenya
In his opening remarks, the Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, said that trachoma was responsible for the high rate of absenteeism in primary schools, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. His sentiments were also echoed by the Health Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Macharia, as he emphasised that, “this is a huge economic drain to these already poor and marginalised peoples. The Government is committed to reversing this trend through adoption of all WHO recommended strategies.”
By tackling this disease, not only will the programme help save the sight of people across Africa, but it will enable children and young people to stay in education, and allow people to go out to work and support themselves and their families.
Prof. Kaimenyi also urged the Governors in the affected counties to compliment this trachoma initiative by setting aside funds to scale up this engagement. “We initially managed to eliminate polio in Kenya back in 1984. Today, we can also eliminate trachoma if we adopt the same concerted efforts,” he advised.
On 15th November 2013, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (The Trust) pledged £42.8m to combat blinding trachoma in Commonwealth countries in Africa. The Trust was established following the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia in 2011, to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. With a mission to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth, the Trust has chosen to make the elimination of avoidable blindness a major focus of its work.
Between 2013 and 2018, the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) aims to eliminate the disease entirely in Malawi and Kenya and make significant advances towards elimination in Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Specifically, in Kenya and Malawi, the disease will be eliminated by 2019 and also drastically reduced in three other African countries: Uganda, Mozambique and Nigeria.
The collective country interventions will see the provision of over 11 million treatments for active trachoma infection and support toward 168,000 surgeries for people with the advanced stages of the disease within the endemic countries in the continent.