It was announced Wednesday that Ghana has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to be validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating the eye disease.

Map of Ghana/CIA

“It’s been 20 years since the global health community committed to eliminating trachoma worldwide” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Although there’s more work to do elsewhere, the validation of elimination in Ghana allows another previously heavily-endemic country to celebrate significant success.”

“This success is a result of a tremendous amount of hard work by thousands of health, education and development workers to improve the lives of individuals with trachoma and their families”, said Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, Ghana’s Minister of Health. “The Government of Ghana is enormously grateful to its staff and to the many partners that have joined forces with us to eliminate trachoma and the cycle of poverty it triggers.”

Trachoma – The Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness Worldwide

“Ghana’s success against trachoma shows the world and the remaining endemic countries that the greatest challenges can be overcome with persistence, political commitment, and the support of the international community,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center, a pioneer in disease elimination and eradication for more than three decades.

“Ghana has persevered to rid itself of this terrible disease,” said Kelly Callahan, director of the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program, which has been a leader in the international trachoma campaign for 20 years. “I applaud Ghana’s dedicated trachoma health workers for improving the lives of so many for generations to come.”

Trachoma, a devastating eye disease caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, is spread through contact with infective eye or nose discharges, either directly from person to person, or mediated by flies. Active (inflammatory) trachoma occurs as a result of infection, and is common among preschool-aged children. Women are blinded up to four times as often as men, mainly due to their close contact with infected children.

Transmission is associated with poor sanitation and hygiene, which increase the availability of eye discharges and encourage the breeding of flies.

India eliminating trachoma and other global health successes in 2017

Carter Center awarded $800,000 grant for Blinding Trachoma Elimination in Mali, Niger