Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: A delegation from Noor Dubai Foundation recently travelled to Ethiopia as part of its three-year programme to eliminate trachoma, an eye disease associated with poverty and which affects millions.

The delegation, in collaboration with the Carter Centre, visited the Amhara National Regional State to help some 18 million people living in poverty in 167 districts across the region. Amhara is one of the most trachoma-endemic regions of the world, where about nine million children aged one to nine are affected by trachoma.

Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that eventually causes blindness if left untreated. It is caused mainly by the lack of tools for basic hygiene, clean water and adequate sanitation. It is responsible for approximately three per cent of the world’s blind. Although it is easily preventable, trachoma has blinded or painfully disabled more than two million of the world’s poorest people, who depend on their eyesight to survive. Noor Dubai’s ‘Trachoma Elimination’ programme in Ethiopia will focus on four main areas: surgeries and operational theatres, medicine and antibiotics distribution, latrines and educational health programmes.

Eng Eisa Al Maidour, Chairman of Noor Dubai Foundation, said the programme aims to completely get rid of the debilitating disease that is common among impoverished sectors of the community.

“The Noor Dubai’s Trachoma Elimination programme 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,” Al Maidour said.

Al Maidour said the programme endorses the SAFE strategy recommended by the World Health Organisation. SAFE is an acronym for Surgery for trichiasis (inverted eyelashes), Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement.

Dr Manal Omran Taryam, Board Member and CEO of Noor Dubai Foundation, said : “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.”

Dr Manal said the programme is very important to the local population since eye care services are extremely limited throughout the country, particularly in rural areas and villages.

“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. The rural areas and villages that the programme targets have no ophthalmologists. Eye surgery is being performed in a small distant health centre by trained paramedics.”

About 1.2 million of the more than 82 million people in Ethiopia are blind. Some 2.8 million people suffer from low vision while nine million children have active trachoma.

Statistics from local authorities suggest that major causes of blindness in Ethiopia are cataract (49.9 per cent), trachomatous corneal opacity (11.5 per cent), refractive error (7.8 per cent), corneal disease (7.8 per cent), and glaucoma (5.2 per cent).