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WHO Praises Benin, Mali for Eradicating Trachoma

— June 12, 2023

The World Health Organization announces two new countries that have eliminated trachoma as a public health emergency.

Mali and Benin have joined the league of nations that have eliminated trachoma from their countries. With this, they have become the most recent countries in the African Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) to eradicate the disease. Trachoma is simply an infectious disease that most commonly causes blindness worldwide. The bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis ultimately leads to the development of the disease. The infection can be passed from one person to another or when insects that have come in contact with the discharge of an infected person spread it to another. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are risk factors in the environment influencing the spread of trachoma. These include improper hygiene practices, overcrowded houses, insufficient water accessibility, and the improper use of sanitation facilities. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), ” WHO congratulates the health authorities of Benin and Mali and their network of global and local partners for these milestones. Following Benin’s and Mali’s success, trachoma remains endemic in 23 countries in WHO’s African Region, bringing us a step closer towards the elimination target for trachoma set in the road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030.” 

In Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, and the Western Pacific, trachoma is most commonly found in rural and underdeveloped communities. There are millions of people residing in high-risk zones in the World Health Organization African Region, which accounts for 84% of the total trachoma burden around the world. The disease trachoma disproportionately affects these regions. In the world’s most impoverished and rural areas, the disease is highly prevalent. Millions of persons across the globe are blind or visually impaired due to this condition, accounting for approximately 1.4% of all cases of blindness overall. 

WHO Praises Benin, Mali for Eradicating Trachoma
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Mali and Benin, with the assistance of WHO and other partners, have put into action the SAFE strategy, which the WHO recommended for the elimination of trachoma. The SAFE method promotes facial hygiene, environmental management, antibiotics for eliminating the infection, surgery for trachoma-related issues, and, particularly, improving sanitation and water accessibility in order to minimize disease transmission. Pfizer is donating azithromycin, which is an antibiotic, to elimination programs using the SAFE method as part of the International Trachoma Initiative. 

Under the auspices of the National Programme for Communicable Diseases, Benin has combined the measures it takes to eliminate trachoma with those it takes to eliminate other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). In Benin, trachoma happens to be the third NTD the country has eradicated, following in the footsteps of dracunculiasis, which was eradicated in the year 2009. In 2021, gambiense human African trypanosomiasis was also eradicated in the country.

Although there have been some security issues in the country’s northern regions in recent times, Mali has performed trachoma impact surveys and surveillance, and country leaders have implemented interventions to reach their elimination targets. Trachoma was the first NTD that Mali eradicated. 

“These are impressive public health achievements,” stated Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director of the WHO Global NTD Programme.  “Benin and Mali demonstrate how a strong political will, cross-sector integration, surveillance, and community engagement can work together to achieve disease elimination.” 

Mali and Benin are now among the 16 nations recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having successfully eradicated trachoma as a significant threat to public health. These countries include China, Cambodia, the Gambia, Mexico, Ghana, Oman, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malawi, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Togo, Saudi Arabia, and Vanuatu.


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