The World Health Organization (WHO) will today present a certificate to Ghana to congratulate the country on becoming the first sub-Saharan country in Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma.
In June this year, WHO announced that Ghana had eliminated trachoma as a public health problem.
A major achievement given that at the beginning of the century, 2.8 million people in the country were estimated to be at risk of this devastating, but preventable disease.
As a result of that achievement, there will be a ceremony today, where the certificate of elimination is officially presented to the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu by Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa the WHO Representative, Ghana Country Office.
Government leaders, health workers and volunteers and international aid workers are among those expected at a celebration of the milestone to be is held at the Kempinski Hotel in the nation’s capital, Accra.
A range of organisations and individuals who all played a part in making the ground-breaking achievement a reality have been invited to the day-long event - including government leaders, medical professionals, health volunteers, community leaders in the former trachoma endemic districts and representatives from international organisations like Sightsavers.
They will mark the momentous occasion with a variety of celebrations including speeches, video presentations and awards.
Dr Agatha Aboe, Global Trachoma Programme Advisor for Sightsavers, said: “We want to offer our congratulations to Ghana on this momentous day. We are so proud to be celebrating this landmark - many of us have been working towards it for many years and I can barely believe the day has come.
“Trachoma blights millions of the poorest people in the world and has now been eliminated in Ghana. It is an incredible achievement only possible due to collaboration between a number of partners who have been committed to the course of the elimination of trachoma from Ghana and other parts of the world.
“However, this is no time to rest, there is still much work to be done. It is now really important that we share what we have learned with other countries so they can also eliminate this awful disease - worldwide elimination of this ancient disease is within our grasp.
“It is also vital that Ghana now concentrates efforts to also eliminate other neglected tropical diseases – such as lymphatic filariasis and river blindness – which we hope to also be celebrating soon.”
Trachoma is an infectious condition spread by flies and human touch, linked to poverty and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
It starts as a bacterial infection and if left untreated, eyelashes painfully scratch the surface of the eye and can cause irreversible blindness.
Between 2000 -2017, Sightsavers has worked towards trachoma elimination with the Ghana Health Service and partners by organising eye screening clinics; training thousands of local health workers and volunteers; providing equipment, antibiotics and surgery to those who needed it; and helping to collect the information needed to know who needed this treatment and where they were.
We believe the achievement is the result of a group of people coming together and working in partnership – a collaboration between governments, health officials, communities, volunteers and international organisations.
Strong leadership, community participation and implementation of the full SAFE strategy were vital to this success.