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Trachoma Control Program

Our Goal

The Trachoma Control Program is marking its 20th anniversary in 2018. The program works with ministries of health in six 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, 190 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 six countries: Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda. 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

  • The Carter Center has trained and equipped local health workers to surgically correct eyelids deformed by the scarring of multiple trachoma infections. The Carter Center supported approximately 46 percent of the global output of these types of surgeries in 2016. Also in 2016, The Carter Center supported 119,365 corrective eyelid surgeries, the most in any calendar year since the program started. Since 1999, The Carter Center has assisted national programs in completing 681,474 surgeries.
  • The Carter Center has assisted in the distribution of over 156 million doses of Zithromax® (donated by Pfizer Inc), an effective trachoma-fighting antibiotic. In 2016, over 16 million doses, about 18 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 continued to support the construction of household latrines in 2016. Since 2002, approximately 3.6 million household latrines have been built to help to reduce breeding sites for flies, a principal source of infection.
  • Since 2000, The Carter Center has been a pioneer in the fight against blinding trachoma. The Carter Center has conducted extensive studies in partnerships with ministries of health and others and has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and peer-reviewed publications.
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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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