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Sightsavers Is Working To End Trachoma Globally

June 8, 2018 - Author: steph

Recently, the CEO of Sightsavers spoke at the TED 2018 conference in Vancouver, Canada. Caroline Harper addressed an audience that included hundreds of tech entrepreneurs, leading thinkers, scientists and activists such as herself. She had a pair of tweezers hanging from a chain necklace around her neck. It symbolizes a potentially debilitating disease called trachoma.

This disease is the leading cause of blindness in the world. It is not malnutrition, war or poverty that is the biggest cause of blindness, but rather a bacterial infection called trachoma. This bacterial disease is highly contagious. It is now estimated that over 180 million people are at risk for developing this disease.

Most cases of trachoma occur due to poor hygiene. INGOs such as Sightsavers are working alongside other NGOs such as the World Health Organization and local officials in countries where people are at risk of developing trachoma. The disease is simple to prevent and often easy to cure.

The main reason why trachoma continues to exist is that people in rural and isolated communities may lack access to proper sanitation facilities and clean water. They may also lack awareness and education about the importance of good hygiene. The infections can also spread rapidly and decimate entire populations with blindness.

Trachoma does not cause blindness right away. Instead, it creates scar tissue under a person’s eyelid. After multiple infections this causes eyelashes to grow towards the eyes. The eyelashes then rub against the cornea. After a while, the eyelashes can wear away the cornea and damage it. If the damage is severe then blindness results.


Tweezers are used to pull the eyelashes away from the eyes to prevent irritation in the eyes. The relief is often temporary. Killing the bacteria responsible for the infection and practicing proper hygiene is the only real way to eliminate and control this disease.


Trachoma is not a new disease either. The ancient Egyptians were afflicted with the disease. Carolina Harper of Sightsavers now says that we can eliminate this disease from the world in our time. The only thing stopping us is a lack of resources to pursue this effort.


Thanks to modern technology, health officials can now monitor, record and transmit data about trachoma and hygiene more readily than ever before. Support from international groups such as Sightsavers and the World Health Organization is also aiding efforts. With enough funding and outreach, it truly is possible to eliminate a disease the has blinded millions of people throughout the ages.

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