http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/new-drive-to-eliminate-river-blindness/article/487026

New drive to eliminate trachoma blindness

Posted Mar 2, 2017 by Tim Sandle
The campaign to eliminate the bacterial blindness disease trachoma has received a boost with a $11.7 million donate from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The funding, for research, will be handled by The Carter Center among other bodies.
The donation, to tackle blinding trachoma in the West African nations of Mali and Niger, was announced this week. Speaking on behalf of the Hilton Foundation, Peter Laugharn said: “The Hilton Foundation has supported efforts toward the global elimination of trachoma for more than 20 years and we are thrilled to be reaching the elimination of this disease as a public health problem in countries like Mali and Niger by 2020.”
The CEO of the foundation also added: “I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that neglected tropical diseases have, and no one should have to suffer from a disease that is preventable. I believe that through collective compassion, collaboration and smart solutions, we can achieve this goal by 2020.”
The disease trachoma is the result of a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can lead to blindness and it is a serious tropical disease and one that has been infecting people for thousands of years (cases have been traced back to 8,000 BCE). The infection causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids which, in turn, can lead to pain in the eyes, breakdown of the outer surface or cornea of the eyes, and, if untreated, eventual blindness. The disease has been profiled on Digital Journal more fully in a previous article.
One of the recipients of the funding will be The Carter Center. The organization has said it will match its $5.1 million grant dollar for dollar. Speaking about the new funding, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who founded of The Carter Center, declared: “Mali and Niger’s strong commitment and hard work have brought them within reach of eliminating blinding trachoma.” He also added that the new funding, some of which is also going to Helen Keller International and Sightsavers, will help to make eliminate of the disease possible.
A particular focus will be with women and children since they are disproportionately affected by the infection. While the disease is found in 50 countries, Mali and Niger have the highest infection rates. One reason why the condition becomes serious is due to a lack of access for eyelid surgery. Disease spread relates to conditions of poor sanitation, crowded living conditions, and not enough clean water and toilets.
Preventative measures are based on what the World Health Organization calls the SAFE strategy (an acronym for Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and hygiene education, and Environmental improvement). Some of the funding will go towards supporting this initiative.