Marrakesh, Morocco, (APO)- The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged this week the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Morocco.
Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Transmitted through contact with eye and nose discharge of infected people, particularly young children, it affects populations in 42 countries, and is responsible for blindness or visual impairment in around 1.9 million people.
“This is an impressive public health achievement for Morocco,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “It demonstrates how strong political will, education, awareness, surveillance and most importantly community engagement, can work to defeat a debilitating disease.”
In the 1990s, Morocco began to implement the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy, which contains a comprehensive package of interventions, including surgery for trichiasis – the blinding stage of trachoma, antibiotics to treat infection, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement to limit transmission.
Thousands of seriously affected people in the provinces of Errachidia, Figuig, Ouarzazate, Tata and Zagora underwent surgery and the vast majority were treated by health workers with the antibiotic azithromycin, donated through the International Trachoma Initiative.
“Morocco has made a significant contribution to our goal to achieve global elimination of trachoma.” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
“This success in Morocco gives us hope that similar achievements are possible in our Region to eliminate other neglected tropical diseases,” Dr Ala Alwan stressed.