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Joining forces to deliver trichiasis surgery in Mozambique

Date: 
August 03, 2015

Sharone Backers, RTI International

When it comes to being on the right track to eliminate trachoma at the national level, Mozambique has made incredible progress over the last few years. Key to this success has been partners and donors joining forces around our common goal, the elimination of blinding trachoma in Mozambique by 2020. I feel very proud to have been part of this amazing journey.

This journey started when we mapped the country for trachoma as part of the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP, funded both by USAID and DFID), which was our first experience of using mobile technology and standardized training methodologies and was a learning curve for all of us. The project saw RTI, Light for the World and Sightsavers planning and working together to support the Ministry of Health to analyze the situation and figure out what needed to be done.

Organizational collaboration between partners was one of the strongest points in this process. It took a lot of communication and partnering to move things forward and to get in a rhythm of harmonizing our efforts throughout the country but ultimately set a great example and showed the ministry that NGOs are not in competition and are here to support them.

For me personally, it was an extraordinary experience to see how efficiently we moved forward with the mapping and the amount of support we received from ICTC at different levels promoted a sense of unity and a realization that it was possible to get Mozambique aligned with the progress underway in some  other African countries.

In 2014, RTI was fortunate to be selected as the coordinating partner for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust's Trachoma Initiative in Mozambique. As part of this initiative, we found ourselves working alongside our existing partners Light for the World and Sightsavers - a strong partnership in which each partner provides complementary expertise.

This five-year initiative aims to reduce the backlog of trichiasis throughout the country and has been warmly welcomed in Mozambique, which has an estimated 7,000-8,000 cases. Through the initiative, cases are diagnosed by local case finders which are then confirmed by an ophthalmology technician. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the patient is transported free of charge to the local hospital where surgery is undertaken by a trained surgeon. Providing free transport is critical to success in Mozambique where distances to local health centers are often significant, especially for poor, remote communities where trichiasis is often found.

What has been really inspirational is hearing the stories that come from the patients. They share moving details of their lives that make it so rewarding to know that they are receiving free treatment, enabling them to go back to work and lead their lives free of pain. For many of the patients I have spoken to, they don’t know why they have excruciating pain in their eyes and assume that it is due to witchcraft. Not only does surgery allow them to be free of pain, treatment helps them to understand better what the problem was so that they in turn can pass positive messages on to others who can benefit from receiving surgery.

Thanks to the support we've received, the lives of some of the most marginalized people in Mozambique are changing, giving them chance to resume their life again. Thanks to all the fantastic partners who have worked so hard to bring about this change!

Photo captions:
Top - Sharone Backers, RTI International
Bottom - Patient with trichiasis on both eyes before surgery