MALAWI – The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated Malawi for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, making it the first country in Southern Africa and the fifth in Africa to achieve this milestone.
Globally, Malawi joins 14 other countries that have been validated by WHO for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem including Democratic Republic, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, and Togo.
“Following the surveys and with the support of WHO and partners, Malawi stepped up efforts against trachoma, establishing a national trachoma taskforce that implemented the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy to control trachoma,” the agency said.
The global health body also partnered with national health authorities to support the training of mid-level eye clinicians on surgery to treat the blinding stage of trachoma and the rolling out of antibiotic mass drug administration with donations from Pfizer.
WHO worked closely with the health authorities in carrying out public awareness campaigns to promote facial cleanliness and personal hygiene while stakeholders supported the improvement of water, sanitation, and hygiene services at the district level.
The agency further disclosed that the country received significant funding from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust which hugely contributed to the breakthrough in the fight against trachoma.
“WHO is assisting Malawi’s health authorities to closely monitor communities where trachoma was previously endemic to ensure that there is a rapid response to any resurgence of the disease,” the agency added.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa acknowledged Malawi’s achievement while noting that it is life-changing for millions of children at risk of the devastating disease.
She explained that trachoma results in painful late complications leading to sight impairment, a life-long disability that causes significant emotional and economic hardship for families.
“With Malawi showing the way, I hope other endemic countries in southern Africa will prioritize the fight against neglected diseases that cause untold suffering to vulnerable populations,” the WHO Director said.
Malawi eradicating trachoma as a public health problem is a great step towards the 2030 goals set by the recently launched 2021–2030 road map for neglected tropical diseases (NTD), endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2020.