Trachoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, a painful sensation caused by bacteria that feels like sand stuck beneath the eyelid. Helen Keller International is advancing techniques and knowledge to treat and prevent this disease.
Complex problems, simple solutions: Trachoma: preventing and treating blindness.
PETER NYANDA [HKI Coordinator, Eye Health]
Trachoma is an infectious disease that affects the upper eyelid of a human being. A bacterium causes it, and it affects most people in places where there is a lack of proper hygiene and sanitation. If you are suffering from trachoma, when the eyelashes are blinking they cause scarring of the cornea of the eyes.
At night, in the afternoon, all the time. I wipe my eyes but nothing comes out. It seems like there is sand in them, but nothing comes out.
The more you blink, the more pain there is, every second of your life until you get treated.
If I am treated and I am able to see, I will be very grateful.
Complex problems, simple solutions: Trachoma is the number one cause of preventable blindness in the world. Trichiasis, the last phase of this disease, causes blindness that can be corrected through surgery. HKI trains surgeons, provides antibiotics, and educates communities to reduce blindness from trachoma.
PIRMIN NYERIO [Nurse, Trichiasis Specialist]
Most people who are affected by this disease do not have the capacity to access the medical services that are available. For those patients of trichiasis, if they don't have any place to get service, they usually take a small knife to cut the eyelashes. That technique relieves pain temporarily, but the eyelashes are very sharp after being cut, so they eyelashes are rubbing the cornea and one is becoming blind from trachoma. One principle of saving the blind is you as care provider have to follow the blind patient to give the service. There were no surgeons in hard to reach areas, so we thought of training surgeons so the patients could benefit from their service.
During the selection of trainees, we made sure that trainees come from the grassroots level. The majority of them are clinical officers, so they meet the community each and every day. They are the community doctors, if you will. So they play a major role in addressing trachoma at the local level.
In our district we sent four surgeons and they've already been trained. If the procedure was done very nicely, there is no chance of recurrence. If the surgery is successful, I feel nice because they'll say, "Oh, that's a good surgeon!"
Complex problems, simple solutions: HKI helps prevent trachoma by empowering communities to take control of their own health.
FROWIN CHITTANDA [HKI Program Officer, Eye Health]
The School Health Program is a key program. HKI is trying to educate children to give them knowledge on the disease so that they can take preventive measures so they don't contract the disease. The simple kind of face wash can help them to prevent trachoma. Just a simple face wash.
Primary school kids can be very good ambassadors to the rest of the communities. They can bring the message home. Development can work better if it starts from within.
With international efforts put together, you can always dream of success in the future.