Angeshita in Malawi – one year on from cataract surgery. She had cataracts in both eyes and had to stop working due to her sight loss. Her daughter and grandchildren had to look after her. She had cataract surgery and regained her sight thanks to Sightsavers/Photo: © Sightsavers

Funding boost of $36.5m to help eliminate blinding disease in Africa

Plans to eliminate the blinding disease trachoma from 16 African countries have been boosted with $36.5m (about €34.24) in new funding. Twelve of the countries supported through the Accelerate programme, led by the non-profit Sightsavers, hope to eliminate trachoma by 2027 and three will make significant progress towards this goal in that time. 

Trachoma begins as a bacterial infection, with symptoms similar to conjunctivitis. But repeated infections cause scarring that makes people’s eyelashes turn inwards and scrape painfully against the eye with every blink. Left untreated it can lead to sight loss and permanent blindness. 

Simon Bush, Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at Sightsavers, said: “Trachoma is a horrific disease which stops people from earning a living, growing food, cooking and caring for their families and going to school. People describe the pain as like having sand or thorns in their eyes.” 

“Through Accelerate we were able to support the government of Benin to eliminate trachoma in 2023 and this new funding will supercharge our support for 16 more countries to finally end the scourge of trachoma.” 

The additional funds will extend the Accelerate programme, which began in 2018, as part of The Audacious Project, hosted by TED. The new funding is from international donors which include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The ELMA Foundation and, for Zambia, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust as well as Sightsavers own contribution. 

Sightsavers has more than 70 years’ experience working with governments in more than 30 countries to control and eliminate NTDs. To date, they have supported ministries of health to deliver over 1.7 billion NTD treatments and worked with governments in Ghana, Gambia, Malawi, Benin and Mali to successfully eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. 

Find out more about Accelerate at www.sightsavers.org/programmes/accelerate/

The twelve countries targeted to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem by 2027 are: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Meanwhile Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique will make significant progress towards elimination. The fund will also contribute support to Ethiopia, which carries world’s highest burden of the disease in the world. 

© Sightsavers

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