TOGO – The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated Togo for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, making it the fourth country in WHO’s African Region to achieve this milestone.
Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease caused by bacteria commonly transmitted through direct person-to-person contact mainly due to the close contact with infected persons.
It is the leading infectious cause of blindness and environmental risk factors for trachoma transmission include poor hygiene, overcrowded households, inadequate access to water and inadequate access or use of proper sanitation facilities.
According to the World Health Organization, repeated infection can severely scar the inside of the eyelid, turning it inwards and causing the eyelashes to rub against the eyeball. This results in constant pain and light intolerance which if left untreated can lead to visual impairment or blindness.
Togo eradicates trachoma as a public health problem after Morocco in 2016, Ghana in 2018 and Gambia in 2021 which is a great step towards the 2030 goals set by the recently launched 2021–2030 road map for neglected tropical diseases (NTD).
The country launched a series of awareness campaigns focusing on the importance of facial cleanliness and personal hygiene in the fight against trachoma and invested in significant improvements in the provision of safe water and access to better sanitation.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said that Togo’s achievement is a significant step in the progress towards trachoma elimination, noting that families across the country can now live without the fear of the severe impacts of the preventable disease due to sustained control measures.
She stated that the major elimination strategy was screening and treatment of people with late trachoma complications along with community participation where community health workers were trained to identify suspected cases and refer them for examination and treatment.
Globally, Togo joins 12 other countries that have been validated by WHO for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem including Cambodia, China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Gambia, Ghana, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Benin, Uganda and Rwanda eliminate human African trypanosomiasis
Meanwhile, Benin, Uganda and Rwanda have received validation from the World Health Organization that at least one form of Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), otherwise known as sleeping sickness, has been eliminated as a public health problem in their lands.
HAT is a life-threatening disease carried by tsetse flies that afflicts poor rural populations particularly communities in West, Central and East Africa, where two different variants of the disease were rife.
The elimination of transmission as a public health problem is an important step on the road towards the ultimate goal, namely to eliminate the transmission of gambiense HAT by 2030 to meet the 2030 NTD road map target.