Trachoma has been eliminated as a public health problem in Benin and Mali, as validated by the World Health Organization.
They join a growing list of countries to have banished the disease, following Ghana in 2018, The Gambia in 2021 and Malawi in 2022.
The milestone follows many years of hard work led by national governments in each country, with support from Sightsavers and other international partners.
Sightsavers CEO Dr Caroline Harper said: “This is a momentous day. The elimination of trachoma in Benin and Mali is a huge achievement for the countries, and for all those people who have worked so hard to make this possible. I would also like to recognise those who generously funded the work in these countries.
“Globally, while significant progress has been made, funding is urgently needed to ensure we can continue working to eliminate trachoma in other countries. This is essential to keep thousands of people from suffering the completely preventable pain and loss of vision this disease can cause. We know that with the right investment, we can see the elimination of trachoma as a global public health problem in our lifetime.”
Pelagie Boko-Collins, Sightsavers’ NTD lead in Benin, said: “Eliminating a disease on this scale is a massive achievement for our country. Today, 3.4 million people in Benin are no longer at risk of losing their sight to this agonising disease thanks to hard work, commitment and collaboration between government, health workers, volunteers and organisations such as Sightsavers.
Sightsavers’ country director in Mali, Boubacar Morou Dicko, said: “This will have a huge impact for people in Mali. Together with other partners, we’ve supported the government to deliver more than 29 million doses of antibiotics, and to carry out nearly 90,000 trachoma operations.
“It will have a ripple effect on our society in so many ways. Ending the disease will break the vicious cycle of pain, disability and stigma for many patients, as well as increase productivity, improve school attendance and allow greater empowerment for women.”
In Benin, funding from high-profile international donors has included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation and Virgin Unite through the Accelerate programme.
In Mali, Sightsavers has worked closely with Helen Keller Intl and The Carter Center, supported by funding from the Hilton Foundation as well as other donors including Lions Clubs International Foundation and USAID