Sightsavers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of preventable and treatable causes of blindness around the world, and also to providing assistance to people who’s blindness is incurable. One disease they are actively working on the eradication of is trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye that is spread through contact with the eye and nasal discharge of infected people, or the rags that had been used to wipe their faces, and through contact with flies that have landed on the faces of infected individuals. This infection gradually causes the eyelids to scar and turn inward, leaving the eyelashes scratching the eye with every blink. Over time, this condition damages the eye so severely that it leads to blindness. This condition, if caught in the early stages, can be treated with a single dose of a powerful antibiotic called azithromycin.
Sightsavers began the process of eradicating trachoma by receiving donated pills, distributing them throughout the countries in need, and also training local healthcare workers to also be able to distribute the medication in remote villages. Sightsavers also designed a measuring stick that is used to very easily gauge how much of a dose to give each patient based on their height. They also operate a treatment and prevention system known as SAFE. This acronym stands for surgery, antibiotics, facial cleansing, and environmental improvement. Surgery, to fix the eyelids of the severely infected to prevent further damage to the eye; antibiotics, to treat the underlying bacterial infection; facial cleansing, to prevent the infection from spreading; and finally environmental improvement, to insure access to clean water and lavatories to reduce the fly population and help hinder the bacteria’s spread.
Today, Sightsavers has managed to eliminate trachoma in Ghana, China, and Iran. However, there is concern regarding the challenge of eliminating trachoma in unstable areas, like South Sudan, where conflicts make it a hazard for health workers to distribute medications and provide assistance to those in need.
Recently, online through YouTube, Sightsavers featured a Community Directed Distributor, Baraka Ango, who explains how people are extremely happy to see her. She shows how the measuring stick works and talks about how the people recognize her based on the stick that identifies her as a health worker. she carries for determining doses and are happy to see her and her coworkers in their villages.