Kenya and Tanzania launch effort to fight trachoma

Members of the Maa community receive anti-biotics at trachoma treatment exercise in Kenya. /Kenya Health Ministry

Kenya and Tanzania have embarked on a joint effort to fight trachoma.

Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection often leads to permanent blindness.

Members of the Maa community receive anti-biotics at trachoma treatment exercise in Kenya. /Kenya Health Ministry

The joint exercise, launched on Tuesday in Kenya, targets the cross-border pastoral Maa community that lives in areas across the two East African neighbours.

Speaking during the launch, Wycliffe Omondi, who heads the division of vector borne and neglected tropical diseases at the Kenya Ministry of Health says synchronizing drug administration across the two countries remains the most effective way to decisively deal with trachoma.

“The government is going out of its way to provide medication to community members and I urge them to take the medication,” said Omondi.

According to George Kambona, Tanzania’s NTD programme manager, previous efforts by the two countries to deal with the problem independently had not been as effective. He said the current coordinated efforts between the two governments will ensure that the vast majority of the pastoral community is reached.

Peter Otinda from Sight Savers, one of the partners supporting the initiative, says members of the Maa community move along the common border in search of pasture for their livestock making the synchronised cross-border exercise the most effective in reaching targeted groups.

Trachoma infection spreads through personal contact (via hands, clothes or bedding) and by flies that have been in contact with discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person. With repeated episodes of infection over many years, the eyelashes may be drawn in so that they rub on the surface of the eye, with pain and discomfort and permanent damage to the cornea.

Antibiotics and frequent facial cleansing are among the most effective ways of reducing trachoma transmission.

The mass drug administration will be conducted for five days targeting an estimated 1,324,392 beneficiaries across four counties of Narok and Kajiado in Kenya and Longido and Ngorongoro in Tanzania.

Trachoma is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and is the leading infectious cause of blindness across the globe.