The Republic of Guinea is a francophone West African country that suffers from the impact of communicable diseases. Guinea has long struggled with the burden of trachoma – an infectious disease that primarily affects poor communities in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. However, thanks to international collaborations among organizations and local government, the outlook for those at risk of contracting trachoma in Guinea is about to change.
Trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world, is a bacterial infection of the eye that causes inward turning of the eyelashes which scratch the cornea, eventually leading to blindness. This disease has historically been one of the leading causes of blindness in Guinea.
The severe effects of trachoma have fueled efforts among international groups. In 2011, Helen Keller International (HKI), as part of USAID’s ENVISION project began collaborating with the Guinean Ministry of Health to create the country’s first-ever program to control Neglected Tropical Diseases, one of them being trachoma. The long-term vision of this program is to significantly decrease the burden of trachoma, progressively lowering disease burden until elimination is achieved. As a result of this collaboration, the first ever national effort to eliminate trachoma will be launched in June, 2013.
The success of this program depends upon the medication used to treat and prevent disease reaching those who need it most. Accordingly, HKI will provide support to the Guinean Ministry of Health for the distribution campaigns targeting communities living in regions severely affected by trachoma. Thanks to the generosity of Pfizer, donations made possible through the International Trachoma Initiative will reach over 500,000 thousand people with drug treatments for trachoma, a first critical step toward ending the struggle against trachoma for the people of Guinea.
By conducting annual mass drug administration or MDA in accordance with WHO recommended guidelines as part of the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, and Environmental Improvement), the burden of disease imposed by trachoma can be significantly reduced and eventually eliminated.