Fighting trachoma in Ethiopia through mass drug administrations
A small pill that can make a huge difference to someone’s life - a crucial step in ridding the world of trachoma.
Recently, Orbis supported its local government partners and health staff to implement a mass drug administration (MDA) across three woredas (meaning districts) in southern Ethiopia.
In Hulla, Malega and Wonesho in the Sidama Zone, 330,280 people received a dose of Zithromax, an antibiotic which tackles trachoma infection – an extremely painful eye condition that with re-peated infections can lead to blindness. Approximately 93%* of the population across the three woredas were treated as part of a project supported by UK aid.
Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious preventable blindness. A highly contagious dis-ease, it is estimated that some 200 million people across 42 countries are at risk. Not only do antibi-otics reduce the risk in people who have active trachoma, but it also reduces its transmission from person to person. These mass drug administrations are a key component of the World Health Or-ganization (WHO) SAFE strategy for eliminating trachoma.
- Facial Cleanliness
Getting most people to a distribution point can be a tough job; however the difficult part is reaching people who can’t leave home, who are reluctant to come, or who have other duties or work. To combat this, Orbis supports health workers and community leaders in awareness raising activities before mass drug administrations, ensuring that people understand why it’s so important to seek treatment and reassure anyone with any fears.
This is particularly important for the first MDA, such as this one, in a community. To reach people who don’t attend a distribution point, health workers go from door to door, with a list of who has not received the drug. This intensive work means as many people as possible receive the drug and that makes long-term success in eliminating trachoma more likely.
Orbis helps local government health staff set up the systems and processes required, and works with them on monitoring and learning lessons so that future MDAs are successful.
Orbis is one of more than 100 partners that form the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET2020) alongside national governments, UK government, Interna-tional Trachoma Initiative, International Coalition for Trachoma Control, Sightsavers, Helen Keller International, International Eye Foundation, the World Blind Union and the World Council of Optom-etry among others.
The Alliance was established by WHO in 1996 and today has partners in around 58 countries. Orbis has been working in Ethiopia – which has the highest burden of blinding trachoma in the world - for 15 years and were jointly responsible for establishing the WHO’s SAFE initiative there. Orbis also played a key role Ethiopia’s participation in the Global Trachoma Mapping Project – the world’s largest ever survey of an infectious disease, which took place in between 2013 and 2016.
*The World Health Organisation minimum recommendation is 85%.
PHOTO CAPTION: An image from a previous MDA that took place in Ethiopia in 2013.