Malawi has become the first country in southern Africa and the fifth in Africa to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem – a disease that affected 7.6 million people nationwide in 2015.
The disease is a devastating condition which can turn eyelashes inwards so that they scrape painfully against the eyeball – left untreated, this can cause permanent sight loss.
The elimination, announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on September 21, follows 12 years of sustained action led by the Government of Malawi with a network of support spearheaded by the non-profit Sightsavers.
It is the first country funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust to achieve this milestone.
The Trust was established in 2012 to create a legacy for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by making a major contribution to the elimination of trachoma in the Commonwealth.
Malawi’s announcement follows recent elimination successes in other African countries, namely Morocco, Ghana, The Gambia and Togo.
Trachoma is the second neglected tropical disease (NTD) Malawi has eliminated in recent years, following its elimination of lymphatic filariasis (or elephantiasis) in 2020 – the result of the country’s comprehensive mass drug administration programme began in 2008.