CALGARY, Nov. 16 /CNW/ – Why in the world is an organization dedicated to the treatment and prevention of blindness spending money on toilets?
“Because believe it or not, toilets and blindness are directly connected,” says Pat Ferguson, President & CEO of Operation Eyesight. “Proper sanitation and clean water are in short supply in the developing world and that contributes to a high rate of unnecessary blindness and other serious health problems.”
A new study conducted by Zambia’s Ministry of Health and supported by Operation Eyesight found that trachoma was 28 per cent more likely to strike in households that do not have proper toilet facilities. The study, which covered five districts in Zambia, found that up to 80 per cent of the households surveyed do not have toilets.
“Trachoma is caused by a bacterium and is easily spread from person to person and by flies which breed on human waste,” says Ferguson. “So it’s no surprise that proper sewage disposal helps to prevent this horrible disease.”
Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. In parts of Zambia and Kenya where Operation Eyesight supports development projects designed to eliminate trachoma, up to 30 per cent of children age one to nine years are infected.
Without treatment, trachoma causes a person’s eyelids to turn inward so that the eyelashes constantly scrape the eyeball. It is extremely painful and can lead to permanent blindness. The World Health Organization estimates more than 80 million people are affected by trachoma and about 8 million suffer the advanced stages of the disease and are visually impaired.
Operation Eyesight’s trachoma projects are designed to both treat and permanently eliminate trachoma. The projects follow the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy which includes Surgery to treat the late stage of the disease, Antibiotics to eliminate infection, Face washing and hygiene promotion, and Environmental change including water wells and latrines to prevent re-infection.
To be effective, the ambitious projects require construction of thousands of latrines, drilling hundreds of wells, mass distribution of antibiotics and training thousands of citizens in hygiene and well management.
“These projects are large and costly,” says Ferguson, “But the benefits are enormous. In addition to preventing unnecessary blindness, the SAFE strategy dramatically reduces other serious diseases, helps keep children in school and saves women the need to walk many kilometers in search of water, which is usually unfit for human consumption.”
Operation Eyesight is working in close partnership with the governments of Kenya and Zambia and is a member of GET2020, the World Health Organization initiative to eradicate trachoma from the entire world by 2020. For more information about Operation Eyesight’s trachoma projects, visit www.operationeyesight.com.
Operation Eyesight is a Canadian international development organization dedicated to preventing and treating blindness throughout the world for more than 45 years – primarily in South Asia and Africa. We help local medical professionals provide comprehensive, sustainable eye care and community development for the people of the world who can least afford it. Since 1963, Operation Eyesight has restored sight to more than two million people and provided blindness prevention services to nearly 33 million others. For more information, visit www.operationeyesight.com.
Global Blindness – Every five seconds, one person in our world goes blind and a child goes blind every minute. More than 90 per cent of the world’s blind people live in developing countries, where day-to-day life is already challenging and blindness is a direct threat to life. About 80 per cent of this blindness is preventable or treatable.