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Global fund to eliminate trachoma

A new global fund has been set up to help finally eliminate one of the most devastating causes of blindness. The blinding eye disease trachoma is depicted in the hieroglyphs on ancient Nubian tombs yet it is now on the verge of being eliminated as a public health problem across the world.

Massive progress has been made by governments, donors and international organisations but more support is needed to end trachoma entirely – so the new fund should take elimination over the finish line. This latest step was announced by Richard Branson, via recorded video link, at the star-studded Global Citizen concert in Johannesburg on Sunday 2nd December.

He represents a collaboration of funders who are launching The Accelerate Trachoma Elimination Programme – which is led by the charity Sightsavers and includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), The ELMA Foundation UK, UK aid and Virgin Unite.

Dr Caroline Harper, Chief Executive of Sightsavers, said: “It is now within our grasp to be part of history and stop trachoma in its tracks. This persistent disease blights the world’s poorest communities and traps people into lives of intense pain. It can turn eyelashes inwards so that with every blink they scrape against the ball of the eye, slowly and torturously turning people blind. Yet it is treatable and preventable.

“Some of the most trusted names in modern philanthropy are now coming together to accelerate elimination efforts and make a huge contribution to getting us closer to the finish line.   More is needed but this will be a key intervention.”

The funding will support at least ten African countries eliminate trachoma as a public health risk and speed up progress in several others, where the burden of the disease is highest, by 2023.

The funding will support at least ten African countries eliminate trachoma as a public health risk and speed up progress in several others, where the burden of the disease is highest, by 2023.

Years of teamwork between communities, governments, donors, pharmaceutical companies and international organisations have brought us to this historic moment. Frontline health officials like Givemore Mafukidze are delivering the treatment, getting to the most vulnerable people in often the hardest to reach places with treatment and information.
Givemore is from Zimbabwe, one of the countries where the project will help eliminate trachoma. He said he was hopeful that his country would be free of trachoma soon and this would make a real difference to the people there. He explained: “When I see a child with trachoma I know that at some point this condition could have been avoided. If this condition goes on, you know that at some point in time they may end up blind. When someone goes blind, it’s a burden to the family, to the community, to the nation.

“It makes me very happy to see a child with trachoma being treated because I know the impact it will have on the child’s life, wellbeing and welfare. I will be certain that this child is likely to have a better future.”
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 will feature performances from world-renowned names including Beyonce, Jay Z, and Ed Sheeran performed. As well as celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela, a key theme of the concert is improving health for all, in particular rallying support to end neglected tropical diseases like trachoma, which affect those living in some of the world’s most marginalized communities.

Accelerate was born from the Audacious Project, which was launched on 11th April 2018 with a mission to foster “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas.” A joint endeavor housed at TED, the Audacious Project surfaces and funds critical projects that have the potential to create massive, global change. The Audacious Project chose trachoma elimination as one of these Audacious ideas.

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