The government of The Gambia recently announced that the country had eliminated trachoma, a highly contagious eye disease, after years of hard work by health workers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and communities.

In The Gambia, the disease accounted for 17% of the reported blindness in a national survey in 1986. The prevalence of trachoma has dropped from 0.1% to 0.02% in the last 10 years. Current estimates show a prevalence of less than 0.2% in adults aged over 15 years. This is about one case per 1,000 people.

Trachoma has been described as the most infectious cause of blindness in the world, responsible for 1.4% of blindness. It is one of the 20 neglected tropical diseases that plague over a billion of the world’s poorest people.

As of September 2020, 13 countries had reported that they had eliminated it as a disease of public health concern. Others in Africa were Ghana and Morocco. Togo is pending validation from the World Health Organization. The organization has validated the claims of 10 of the 13 countries.

The WHO lists strict guidelines to determine whether trachoma has in fact been eliminated from endemic countries. One is that there must be a system in place to identify and, where necessary, manage any new cases in line with protocols. This means that once a country is confirmed as having eliminated trachoma, a resurgence is not expected.

As we are involved in the ongoing Nigerian effort to curb trachoma, my colleagues and I are studying countries like The Gambia closely for guidance.

Sario Kanyi, the coordinator of The Gambia’s trachoma elimination initiative, said its success started in the community. He added that once people knew what trachoma was, they took charge and helped in communicating what had to be done.

Read the full article about eliminating trachoma by Musa Mutali and Gladness Aluyi-Osa at Global Citizen.