A delegation from Noor Dubai Foundation recently travelled to Ethiopia – Amhara National Regional State to examine the progress of its latest initiative, the “Trachoma Elimination” program, which is taking place in collaboration with The Carter Center.
The three-year program is aimed to treat 18 million individual living under poverty in 167 districts across Amhara region, the most Trachoma endemic regions of the world. The delegation was welcomed by the local authorities and governmental officials of Amhara.
The delegation examined the progress of the four main areas of the program: surgeries and operational theaters, medicine and antibiotics distribution, latrines and educational health programs.
His Excellency Engineer Essa Al Maidoor, Chairman of the Noor Dubai Foundation, said: “The Noor Dubai’s Trachoma Elimination program in Ethiopia began in November 2013, and will run for three years to completely eradicate the blinding Trachoma disease from the Amhara region. The initiative will benefit over 7,900 villages. We thank governmental and local health authorities for their collaboration with us. Our Embassy in Ethiopia, headed by UAE Ambassador to Ethiopia, HE Dr. Yousif Eisa Hassan Al Sabri, welcomed the visit and emphasized on the importance of such charitable initiatives and highlighted the role Noor Dubai plays in putting UAE among the leading countries in humanitarian efforts.
“The program endorses the SAFE strategy recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) which included tools of intervention to control Trachoma”
SAFE is an acronym used to indicated a WHO-developed strategy – a combination of interventions tools which stand for surgery for Trichiasis (inturned eyelashes), antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement.
Dr. Manal Omran Taryam, Board Member & CEO of Noor Dubai Foundation explained “Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that eventually causes blindness if left untreated, and is caused mainly by the lack of tools for basic hygiene, clean water and adequate sanitation. Children bear the highest burden of Trachoma infections and women are almost twice as likely as men to develop its advanced stage, Trichiasis, due to their role as the traditional caregivers for children who may unknowingly pass their infection on to their mothers.
“An average rate of patients examined per day is 495 per health worker. There are approximately 95 Ophthalmologists in Ethiopia, 60 of them are in the capital-Addis Ababa. Eye care services are extremely limited throughout the country, particularly in rural areas and villages. The rural areas and villages that the program targets have no ophthalmologists, eye surgery is being performed in a small distant health center by trained paramedics,” she added.
The delegation examined all four main areas of the Trachoma Elimination program that included:
1. Mass Drug Administration
Noor Dubai delegation supervised the work conducted to distribute Zithromax® in the villages of East Amhara. Members of the delegation emphasized on the efforts of the Foundation and all of those involved in the MDA including the beneficiaries of the program who came from different part of Amhara region to get treated.
2. Health Education Visit
Health education and the promotion of facial cleanliness are key components of the SAFE strategy for the prevention and control of trachoma. Team members interacted with some of the students of the 3,459 schools. During talks with school officials and performances conducted by students, the delegation witnessed what children learned about Trachoma and how they can keep themselves healthy and safe from Trachoma. This included a demonstration of activities related to promotion of hygiene and sanitation.
The delegation visited the surgery site in a moderate health center where patients suspected of suffering from Trichiasis are examined by Integrated Eye Care Workers (IECWs). During the visit, Noor Dubai’s team ensured that those who need to receive such services are being treated by surgeons who are conducting the eyelid surgeries to save the sight of many in the Amhara region. Additionally, the team interacted with patients about to receive the surgery and those who have already been operated, along with some of IECWs who spoke about challenges and their success.
So far, the program has trained 282 health workers. The trained health workers then cascaded the training to 1040 field supervisors and 4884 team leaders. The basic unit of each team consists of a team leader and members of health development army. Per week the program calls for over 25,000 personnel of all categories mentioned above and thirty five vehicles to deploy the execution of the campaign.
4. Latrine Construction
The construction of latrines is an important element in preventing Trachoma and subsequent blindness. Latrine construction is not a one-step process nor an endeavor for an individual—it is for the village and completed by the village. The team examined sites where latrine construction is underway and witnessed the steps involved in constructing latrines, a practice that helps to limit the transmission of Trachoma. Inspections to households were conducted and community members discussed the importance of building household latrines, determining the location of where to dig the hole and build a latrine, assisting their neighbours in latrine construction, and using proper latrine.
Ethiopia, which has a population of over 82 million, is the second-most populous nation in Africa. Overall, there are 1.2 million blind people, 2.8 million people with low vision, and 9 million children aged 1-9 years have active Trachoma, an infectious disease that leads to blindness.
Trachoma is responsible, at present, for approximately 3% of the world’s blindness. Worldwide, there are about 8 million people irreversibly visually impaired by trachoma; an estimated 84 million cases of active disease in need of treatment, if blindness is to be prevented. And although Trachoma is easily preventable, the disease has blinded or painfully disabled more than 2 million of the world’s poorest people, who depend upon their eyesight to survive.
The national prevalence of blindness in Ethiopia is 1.6% and the national prevalence for low vision is 3.7%. Surveys, conducted by the local authorities, have shown that both blindness and low vision are more prevalent among females.
According to the statistics provided by the local authorities, the major causes of blindness in Ethiopia are Cataract (49.9%), Trachomatous Corneal Opacity (11.5%), Refractive Error (7.8%), Corneal Disease (7.8%), Glaucoma (5.2%).
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