Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ghana close to eliminating blinding trachoma

Ghana, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia say they have reached the goal for eliminating blinding trachoma, the Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the Year 2020 (GET 2020), announced on Wednesday.A statement received in Accra said each country had also strengthened its health care system so it can deliver eye surgery for those in need. The statement said the announcements were made at a meeting of the World Health Organization's (WHO) global partnership on eye disease in Geneva, Switzerland.It said the three countries used the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy in achieving this result, joining the Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, and Oman, who announced similar progress three years ago. The SAFE strategy is a comprehensive public health action that includes four actions: Surgery for the affected eyelid, Antibiotics to treat the infection, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvements.It said implemented comprehensively, the SAFE strategy can prevent all cases of blindness from trachoma.The statement said in partnership with national programmes and paired with health education, a historic re-commitment was also made by global pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc."Pfizer is a committed partner in the international effort to eliminate blinding trachoma and we will continue to work through the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) at the Task Force for Global Health to provide the Zithromax necessary to meet the 2020 goal," said Jeffrey B. Kindler, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer. "By working together we can rid the world of this disease and help restore the health and livelihood of families and communities." He congratulated the GET 2020 initiative on its progress to date and said: "To all of our partners, thank you. Hundreds of thousands of people owe their sight to your foresight and commitment, and I know none of us will rest until the job is done."The statement said Pfizer had been a key partner in the fight against trachoma by helping found ITI and donating the antibiotic Zithromax=AE, a long-acting antibiotic used to control the infection-the "A" component of the SAFE strategy. Over the last 10 years, Pfizer has provided over a billion dollars of pharmaceutical and financial donations."Rosalynn (Carter) and I have seen the devastating effects of trachoma on people and their families, yet what is even more powerful is the amazing spirit and dedication of the world's poorest people fighting to rid themselves of a completely preventable disease. I applaud their strength and am proud The Carter Center is part of an extraordinary partnership working to ensure these neglected communities have the opportunity to reach their full potential," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose not-for-profit organization, The Carter Centre, supports the distribution of more than one-third of the word's distribution of Zithromax.Since 1998, The Carter Centre has been a leading partner in the implementation, refinement and delivery of the SAFE strategy assisting six African countries. Most recently the Centre is collaborating with ITI and the Lions Clubs of Ethiopia to support the Amhara National Regional State in the distribution of almost 10 million doses of Zithromax as part of two integrated weeks focusing on malaria and trachoma.Trachoma affects the poorest and most remote rural communities of 56 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia, and the Middle East. The estimated number of people affected by trachoma has fallen over the past decade, standing at approximately 40 million people today. Still there are an estimated 8.2 million people with the late, blinding stage of the disease, who need eyelid surgery to avoid irreversible blindness. 22 July 09

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