Gambia becomes the second African country to eliminate trachoma – a disease that can cause blindness – as a public health problem, an encouraging milestone towards the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of curbing 20 neglected tropical diseases by 2030.
“This is a remarkable achievement that has saved children, mothers, and families from preventable visual impairment or blindness, and improved their quality of life and well-being,” says Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is also a clear sign that we can achieve significant milestones through dedicated efforts in tackling health challenges in the region.”
The neglected tropical disease, now eliminated in both Côte d’Ivoire and the Gambia, mainly attacks children. Through WHO’s SAFE strategy – surgery to treat the blinding stage, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvements such as access to water and sanitation – the remaining 27 African countries could also get rid of this public health problem. From 2014 to 2020, the number of cases requiring antibiotics decreased by 72 million in Africa.