155 million people live in areas endemic for blinding trachoma and it is a public health problem in Asia, the Americas, Australia and the Middle East. 90% of those affected live in Africa.
Blinding trachoma is a disease caused by a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. It is commonly spread through contact with contaminated hands or clothing and by flies coming into contact with a person’s eyes or nose.
Blinding trachoma often begins in early childhood and progresses over the years due to episodes of reinfection, causing inflammation and scarring of the inner eyelid. In some people, repeated infection damages the eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inwards and to painfully rub against the eye’s surface (a condition known as trichiasis).
If left untreated, a series of complications can lead to irreversible blindness. Blinding trachoma is directly linked to poverty; communities without access to clean water or effective sanitation are the most vulnerable. The disease has a devastating impact on livelihoods because it limits access to education and prevents individuals from being able to work or care for themselves or their families.