Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Banishing blinding trachoma in Egypt

Cairo, September 30 2019: Nearly 300,000 people in Egypt have been administered antibiotics to treat the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, trachoma, as part of a country-wide mass treatment campaign in partnership with Sightsavers.

This was the first Mass Drug Administration (MDA) of its kind in the country, and over the course of seven days health workers distributed doses of the antibiotic Zithromax®, donated by Pfizer, to 288,365 people aged six months and over.

Delivered by the Ministry of Health and district level governates, in partnership with organisations such as Sightsavers and other NGOs, the treatment for trachoma is crucial in preventing children and adults from going needlessly blind. 

The MDA took place at the end of July in Matay, in the Menia region of Egypt, where nearly 10 per cent of children aged one to nine exhibited symptoms of the disease. Children under seven received their dose in the form of syrup and teams offered medical advice as well as distributed the antibiotics, in the presence of a nurse and a recorder.

The teams went from house to house in 24 villages and three suburban areas, travelling across difficult terrain, to villages nestled in the base of mountains, and even visited a Matay prison, where the director of health personally took a dose of the antibiotic in front of prisoners to encourage their participation.

The 468 health workers also prepared communities for the drug distribution and shared information about trachoma through local media, social media, community leaders, policy makers, faith leaders, and other community organisations.

Philip Downs, Sightsavers’ Technical Director for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) said, “This is a real milestone for public health in Egypt. Blinding trachoma has been causing suffering in Egypt since the age of the Pharaohs and could very soon be banished to the history books if it is made a priority.