The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed Myanmar for removing trachoma as a public health problem. Myanmar is the tenth country in the world and the second country in the WHO region of Southeast Asia (after Nepal) to reach this milestone.
“This remarkable achievement reminds us of the importance of a strong political commitment to implementing integrated disease eradication, public engagement and disease surveillance measures.” said Dr. Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director of the WHO, Department for the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “A new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases for 2021-2030, which will drive these processes globally, should allow us to anticipate more such success stories from countries using WHO-recommended strategies. “
Trachoma is a preventable disease that causes irreversible blindness. It is the leading contagious cause of blindness globally. It remains a public health problem in 44 countries and is responsible for blindness or visual impairment in about 1.9 million people, most of whom are extremely poor.
“The burden of trachoma on affected individuals and communities is enormous. ” said Dr. Anthony Solomon, who heads the WHO Global Elimination Program. “This latest achievement provides further evidence of the effectiveness of the SAFE strategy package to combat trachoma: surgery for advanced disease, antibiotics to remove infection and facial cleanliness, and improving the environment to limit transmission.”
Myanmar’s long journey to the elimination of trachoma
In 1964, the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports launched its project to combat trachoma with the support of the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Community interventions consisted of surgery, local antibiotic treatment, and improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), along with health education that promotes behavior change to reduce transmission.
The program has expanded further to include broader activities to prevent blindness, offering affordable interventions in rural areas, where trained health workers have worked tirelessly to serve their communities.
“Myanmar’s multiple access that promotes access to good hygiene infrastructure and clean water, strengthens eye care systems, provides antibiotics and encourages full shopping in the community has allowed the country for people of all ages to now look to the future without trachoma”, Said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO Region for Southeast Asia.
In 2005, trachoma was responsible for 4% of all cases of blindness in Myanmar.
From 2010 to 2015, the prevalence of all-cause blindness in the total population was very low in all regions and states, ranging from 0% to 0.023%. By 2018, that prevalence had dropped to 0.008%.
The Government of Myanmar has committed itself to continuing to implement eye care interventions, in line with the Myanmar Health Vision 2030 strategy, which aims to improve the country’s overall health coverage. It also implements plans to improve hygiene and sanitation by providing toilets to households and ensuring the availability of safe drinking water.
Regular post-validation trachoma studies are also planned to ensure post-validation monitoring.
Successful confirmation of trachoma removal as a public health problem in Myanmar will encourage other health ministries and their partners to continue their efforts against this painful blinding disease.
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