The Gambian health authorities have declared victory against trachoma [eye infection] as a national health problem.

“The Gambia has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem The Government of The Gambia is very pleased to inform the general public and its development partners that The Gambia has now eliminated trachoma as a public health problem,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Health said.

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness and is part of a group of conditions known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). 

It starts off as a bacterial infection that’s a bit like conjunctivitis and can be easily treated.

“If it is not treated, overtime, it causes scarring to the eyelid and pulls the eyelashes inward, so with every blink, the lashes scrape against the eye. 

“This advanced form of trachoma is called trichiasis and can result in intense pain. In the absence of effective treatment, trichiasis can lead to blindness. 

In 1986, a survey found that trachoma was the third leading cause of blindness in the country.

“After three decades of hard work, The Gambia is the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem. 

“This is a milestone achievement which resulted from strong partnerships that supported the full and coordinated implementation of the WHO endorsed SAFE strategy which entails the provision of surgery for trichiasis patients, the distribution of antibiotics (Zithromax) via mass drug administration to treat trachoma infections and reduce the spread of the disease.”

“Teaching local communities the importance of face washing and encouraging good hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection and improving access to water and sanitation to reduce exposure, re-infection and eliminate conditions that favour the breeding of flies,” the statement added.

The Ministry of Health thanked its partners for supporting The Gambia Trachoma Programme. 

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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