The World Health Organization (WHO) is honoring the North African nation of Morocco this year for a major public health achievement. Members of the WHO praise Morocco's successful efforts to get rid of the eye disease trachoma.
Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that can lead to blindness if not caught early enough. Tachoma is still the top infectious disease that leads to blindness in the world. People often catch this disease through contact via the nose, hands, and eyes. This disease often affects children and is active in over 40 countries in the world. It is estimated that 1.9 million people around the world suffer from some form of visual impairment due to trachoma.
Morocco had a great problem with the spread of trachoma in the recent past. It was only after the Moroccan government got serious about raising public awareness in the 1990s that the disease began to taper down. It was in the 90s that Morocco officially implemented WHO's SAFE strategy. This allowed Morrocan surgeons the ability to successfully treat the blinding stage of trachoma (officially called trichiasis). In addition to this new surgical knowledge, the Moroccan government actively promoted cleanliness, getting antibiotic injections, and environmental improvements.
The areas of Morocco that saw the most dramatic changes include the provinces of Tata, Figuig, Zagora, and Errachidia. Many people in these regions were able to receive surgery or antibiotics for trachoma very easily thanks to the International Trachoma Initiative.
The WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma has estimated that over 185,000 people around the world were able to get successful surgery for trichiasis last year. WHO members estimate that 56 million more people were treated of trachoma thanks to the antibiotic azithromycin in 2015.
Morocco's impressive achievement in trachoma elimination is giving hope to those working to eliminate this disease for good. The WHO hopes that by 2020 seven other nations will have the same success as Morocco in eliminating trachoma. These seven nations are Mexico, Oman, Myanmar, Ghana, Gambia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and China.
Members of the WHO are pleased that many of these other nations are on target to dramatically reduce trachoma rates by 2020. However, the WHO believes this initiative still needs funding in order to reach the 2020 goals. WHO is calling for $1 billion in investments to keep these campaigns moving forward.
The WHO has also acknowledged the success of trachoma treatment in the region of southern Sudan. Southern Sudan has implemented many of the SAFE strategies that were so successful in Morocco.
Trachoma often spreads extremely quickly, but is extremely rare in the developed world.