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Carter Center Successfully Distributes Nine Million Doses of Antibiotics During Ethiopia MALTRA Weeks

With a population of approximately 17 million, the Amhara Region of Ethiopia is one of the most severely affected trachoma-endemic areas in the world. There are currently more than 15 million people at risk of infection and approximately 470,000 people visually impaired as a result of trichiasis, the blinding form of the disease. In addition, the region is susceptible to seasonal malaria epidemics, putting the majority of the population at risk for the potentially fatal disease.

Since these two diseases strike in the same geographic areas, the Amhara Region has developed an innovative strategy to deliver an integrated package of prevention and treatment interventions. The "MALTRA" program (Malaria and Trachoma) shows how simple public health strategies can empower communities to protect them and their families from these devastating diseases.

With support from the Lions Clubs International Foundation and the Ethiopian Lions Club, The Carter Center implements the full SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement). The Carter Center has assisted the Amhara Regional Health Bureau to deliver trachoma control since 2000. At the invitation of the Federal Ministry of Health, The Carter Center launched a malaria control program in the Amhara, SNNPR, and Oromia Regions in 2006.

As a world leader in the implementation of community-based public health interventions, The Carter Center supports the application of the full SAFE strategy for trachoma control and facilitates the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), health education, and malaria testing and treatment.

The Amhara Region is one of the most challenging environments in which to implement public health interventions. In an effort to maximize program efficiency, The Carter Center and the Ethiopian Lions Club partnered to deliver the MALTRA program through biannual week-long outreach campaigns, known as "MALTRA Weeks."

By intensifying prevention efforts into MALTRA weeks, The Carter Center is able to devote more time throughout the year to other critical disease prevention activities that simply and inexpensively make a big impact on health in trachoma-endemic areas, such as building latrines that improve sanitation and encouraging hand and face washing.

The inaugural MALTRA week covered western Amhara in November 2008. The second MALTRA week was held in eastern Amhara in April 2009. Together, the two outreach campaigns distributed more than 9 million doses of antibiotic for trachoma control. This record achievement required the participation of thousands of volunteers and health workers from the national, regional, and community levels. The distribution workers traveled by foot in and around their home villages, conducting health education, providing doses of azithromycin to fight trachoma, and testing for and treating malaria-catching missing households through door-to-door visits.

November's MALTRA week resulted in the distribution of approximately 5 million doses of azithromycin (donated by Pfizer, Inc.). April's MALTRA week provided trachoma treatments to approximately 4.4 million people in 55 Woredas (or districts).The early successes of the MALTRA weeks have lead the program to continue these semiannual health education campaigns.

All this week (June 15-19, 2009), tune-in to Morning Edition on WABE 90.1 FM, Atlanta's NPR station, as Odette Yousef reports a five-part series on Carter Center work to prevent trachoma [and malaria] in Ethiopia. Beginning Monday, June 15, you can catch a new segment each day around 6:39 a.m. and again at 8:39 a.m. (EST).

Related Links

Listen:  Week-Long Radio Series Highlights Center's "MALTRA" Weeks in Ethiopia

Read more about the Hilton Foundation

Learn more about the Carter Center's work in Ethiopia

Carter Center Photo:  P. Emerson

During the inaugural MALTRA week in November 2008, Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis looks on as Dr. Paul Emerson, Carter Center Trachoma Control Program director, distributes a dose of the antibiotic azithromycin which is used to prevent and treat trachoma infections.

Hilton Foundation
In September 2008, the Carter Center announced a new collaborative effort with the long-time partner Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in the fight against trachoma. As part of a $15 million renewed commitment to trachoma in August 2008, the Hilton Foundation pledged $10 million to The Carter Center for the Trachoma Control Program. The grant challenges donor organizations and individuals to provide an additional $10 million in support for the Carter Center's efforts to prevent trachoma over the course of five years, which the Hilton Foundation will match on a one-to-one basis. 

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