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The West African country of Benin has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. This contagious bacterial infection, which can cause scarring on the inside of the eyelids and leads the eyelashes to painfully scratch the cornea, is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide. Worldwide, 1.9 million people are estimated to be blind or visually impaired due to trachoma.

Benin map/CIA

“We congratulate Benin’s Ministry of Health on this remarkable achievement,” says Stephanie Palmer, FHI 360’s trachoma technical advisor. “FHI 360 has been proud to partner with the Benin Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Program to ensure that the 1.2 million persons living in formerly endemic districts in Benin are no longer at risk for blindness from trachoma.”

Since 2018, FHI 360 has partnered with the Benin Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Program to provide technical assistance related to the elimination of trachoma. As manager of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases | West program, FHI 360 supported the ministry in conducting trachoma surveys, gathering data and compiling a dossier that was submitted to WHO to present the case that trachoma had been eliminated.

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“The elimination of trachoma shows dedication by Benin’s Ministry of Health, the community drug distributors and others who delivered the SAFE [surgery, antibiotics, facial hygiene and environmental improvement] strategy, and community members willing to participate in these interventions,” Palmer adds. “It also highlights how Benin is part of a larger picture, in which trachoma is disappearing from the region, and gives positive momentum toward reaching WHO’s 2030 global elimination target.”

Benin is the fourth country in West Africa, the sixth country in Africa and the 16th country in the world to have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem.

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