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Like 41% of children in Niger, seven-year-old Nana Habou’s trachoma infection put her independence and future in jeopardy. Without corrective surgery, she would eventually go blind.
Today, after successful surgery, Nana has been able to overcome her condition because of AmeriCares support of trachoma initiatives in Africa.
Trachoma is a preventable disease that afflicts more than 84 million people, mostly in Africa and Asia. It is highly contagious and most prevalent in overcrowded, poverty-stricken communities that lack access to clean water and sanitation. Repeat and chronic infections lead to eyelid scarring, which, in turn, draws the eyelashes inward so they continuously scratch the cornea. This painful condition, called trichiasis, causes blindness and disfigurement, leads to dependence and perpetuates the cycle of poverty. The debilitating effects of trichiasis prevent those with chronic trachoma infections from working and caring for their families because their communities often lack social services for the blind.
“Health and poverty are inextricably linked. Trachoma does not kill, but it destroys lives and strips individuals and whole communities of opportunity,” explains Elizabeth Furst Frank, AmeriCares senior vice-president of Global Programs. “In the short-term, AmeriCares is reducing suffering and disability. In the long-term, everyone fighting trachoma is helping break the cycle of poverty.”
In 2004, AmeriCares joined a coalition effort led by the World Health Organization to achieve the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020). Working in partnership with the International Trachoma Initiative and Pfizer, AmeriCares focuses on providing surgery kits and antibiotics as part of a comprehensive public health strategy to control trachoma. This spring, AmeriCares is providing over 800 trichiasis surgical kits to medical teams in Mali, Niger, Senegal and Ethiopia, which will enable them to travel to remote communities and perform more than 50,000 eyelid surgeries; reversing blindness for some and preventing further deterioration of sight for others.
Since 2004, AmeriCares provided the Ministries of Health in Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Morocco, Nepal and Senegal with enough of the antibiotic Zithromax®, donated generously by Pfizer, to treat 35.3 million trachoma cases.
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