London, 22 November: Malaria Consortium is using mass drug administration in Southern Sudan to improve the lives of those suffering from trachoma, treating 124,000 people in Mayom County. This large scale programme to control the neglected tropical disease is showing important results.
Mary Nyatuare Kerker, was nearly blind after years of repeated trachoma infection had caused her eyelids to turn inwards so that the lashes rubbed against her eyeballs leaving her in constant pain. Eventually, her eyes became opaque and have made her almost blind.
“It is very difficult to see. Sometimes my eye still gets infected, becomes swollen and hurts as my lashes touch my eyeball. I put ash from cow dung onto my fingers, to catch the lashes and pull them from my eye. I have had this problem for 15 years, and for the last three years I have been unable to do household work.”
To prevent cases like Mary’s, Malaria Consortium conducted a round of mass drug administration (MDA) against trachoma, treating the entire population of Mayom County with antibiotics.
Trachoma is highly endemic throughout Unity State, with up to 80 percent of children infected with the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. Infection usually begins in childhood, passed from eye to eye by flies or unwashed hands and face-cloths, and is particularly common in areas with poor sanitation and access to clean water. Years of repeated infection often leave people visually impaired or blind.
Nearly 600 Community Drug Distributors trained by Malaria Consortium conducted a census of the villages to ensure that everyone was recorded for treatment and subsequently went house to house to treat all individuals. During the MDA, a total of 123,760 individuals were treated in Mayom County. Of the total, 5,720 infants aged less than six months received tetracycline eye ointment and 31,690 children aged six months to five years received azithromycin syrup or tetracycline ointment. While 86,401 children over five years and adults received azithromycin tablets according to their height.
To maximize impact and maintain elimination over time, however, implementation of the full SAFE strategy will be required. SAFE comprises: eyelid Surgery for trichiasis; Antibiotics for treatment of trachoma infection; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvements including building pit latrines (to reduce the number of eye-seeking flies), providing water sources (for face washing) and keeping home compounds clean. Malaria Consortium is working with the Government of Southern Sudan to build up the coordinated approach required to implement the full SAFE strategy in Unity State and beyond.