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Trachoma Control Program

Our Goal

The Trachoma Control Program works with ministries of health in five African countries to eliminate blinding trachoma, the world's leading cause of preventable blindness.

What is Trachoma?

Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection found in poor, isolated communities lacking basic hygiene, clean water, and adequate sanitation.

It is easily spread from person to person through eye-seeking flies, hands, and clothes. Repeated infection leads to scarring and inward turning of the eyelid — a very painful condition called trichiasis — eventually causing blindness if left untreated.

How Widespread is the Disease?

Trachoma can be found in over 50 countries, most in Africa and the Middle East, and a few countries in the Americas and Asia.

Globally, 157 million people are at risk for trachoma, and over 3.2 million are at immediate risk for blindness from trichiasis.

Currently there are 31 countries actively implementing a preventative strategy. The Carter Center works to control and prevent trachoma in the following five countries: Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Sudan, and South Sudan. Ethiopia has the highest known burden of active trachoma infection in the world. The Carter Center supports the region in Ethiopia that is most affected with active trachoma.

Our Strategy

The Carter Center's Trachoma Control Program was established in 1998. As a global leader in the fight against trachoma, the Center and partners implement the World Health Organization endorsed SAFE strategy for trachoma control.

SAFE is a multipronged approach to trachoma prevention that includes: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement.

Results and Impact

  • Ghana in 2018 became the first sub-Saharan African country to be validated by the World Health Organization for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem. Ghana actually succeeded in reducing trachoma as a public health problem by 2010, but the WHO and global trachoma experts had not yet developed a process or criteria to evaluate the country’s achievement. The WHO created a process in 2016 to allow for Ghana and other countries to be validated as having met the targets for elimination as a public health problem. The Center's Trachoma Control Program assisted Ghana’s Ministry of Health from 1999 through August 2011.
  • Two states in Nigeria, Plateau and Nasarawa, also eliminated trachoma as a public health problem in 2018. The Carter Center Trachoma Control Program worked with both states’ health ministries from 2000 through 2015.
  • The Carter Center has trained and equipped local health workers to surgically correct eyelids deformed by the scarring of multiple trachoma infections. In 2017, The Center supported 103,262 corrective eyelid surgeries. This is the second-highest number of surgeries in any calendar year, following 2016 (119,365), since the program started. Since 1999, The Center has assisted national programs in completing 784,736 surgeries.
  • The Carter Center has assisted in the distribution of over 173 million doses of Zithromax® (donated by Pfizer Inc.), an effective trachoma-fighting antibiotic. In 2017, over 17 million doses, about 21 percent of the global total, were distributed in Carter Center-supported areas.
  • The Carter Center has provided more than 10,300 villages with ongoing health education.
  • The Carter Center continues to support the construction of household latrines. Since 2002, approximately 3.6 million household latrines have been built to help to reduce breeding sites for flies, a principal source of infection.
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Antibiotic distribution to treat children's active trachoma infections brings auxiliary benefits to public health and may reduce child mortality, since antibiotics can help cure common childhood killers like diarrheal diseases. Read more >

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