Nurse Hawa Rashid Msangi (center) of the Mkuranga District Hospital near Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, performs trachoma surgeries on Dalin Bakari Ngalanga. The Tanzanian government and IMA World Health have partnered over the past decade to nearly eliminate blindness as a result of trachoma infections in the region. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

World Sight Day: Strengthening Local Capacities to Save Sight

  • Robin Schmid
  • Oct 13, 2021

As IMA World Health recognizes World Sight Day, we honor our critical partnerships that are advancing efforts to control and eliminate trachoma, the world's leading infectious cause of preventable blindness. 

Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by a bacterial infection. It spreads from person to person, most commonly from child to child, and between mothers and their children, through eye discharge. The disease thrives in poor, crowded living conditions where there are shortages of water and inadequate sanitation. Without antibiotic treatment, symptoms can escalate resulting in ulceration and scarring of the cornea. The advanced stage of trachoma is called trachomatous trichiasis (TT). This causes the eyelashes to turn inwards and scrape the eyeball, which is not only incredibly painful, but it can lead to irreversible blindness without surgical intervention. 

Strengthening health systems to provide life-altering treatment

IMA World Health began working to eliminate trachoma in 2009, providing essential drugs through mass campaigns to millions of people annually in trachoma endemic areas of Tanzania. Following the World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed SAFE strategy—Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvements—to address the underlying causes of trachoma, IMA continued to address the backlog of TT cases and strengthen the health system. By working alongside government-sponsored clinics, tapping into networks of faith-based communities, and allying with local organizations, IMA has been able to reach the most remote settings with life-altering treatments to preserve sight. 

The power of partnership

Through IMA's recent trachoma programming - with funding from USAID and Hilton Foundation, and in projects led by Sightsavers International and RTI International - we have achieved the following in Tanzania:

  • Over 16 million people are no longer at risk for trachoma
  • 10,000+ people have received sight saving eye surgery
  • 87% of districts have eliminated trachoma

By collaborating with the Ministry of Health in Tanzania, our Tanzanian Country Director Dr. Lali Chania explains how IMA World Health trained over 118,000 frontline health workers, government officials, community drug distributors and volunteers to conduct mass drug administration in our effort to prevent NTDs like trachoma and improve health service delivery.

Local capacity strengthening initiatives promoting sustainable solutions

Through local capacity strengthening initiatives like this, we will continue to advance mutual learning and promote sustainable solutions to critical public health challenges. Following the WHO's Neglected Tropical Disease Road Map, IMA World Health’s NTD programming is moving the needle towards meeting the WHO's 2030 control and elimination goals. Together with our local partners, we are looking forward to a future without trachoma.

Learn more about why NTD elimination matters from Dr. Abdel Direny, Senior Technical Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at IMA World Health.