What is Trachoma?
Trachoma is quick and inexpensive to treat, antibiotics cost as little as 25p and £6.50 covers trichiasis surgery, however determining exactly where the disease is prevalent has been a major difficulty.
Trachoma is a highly infectious eye disease which is spread by flies, poor sanitation and contact.
As the infection develops over time it pulls the eyelid inwards (trichiasis) so that the eyelashes scratch the front of the eyeball with every blink causing great pain and if left untreated, blindness.
Thanks to the recent support of the UK government, an initiative to survey all areas in which trachoma is suspected of being endemic is being conducted by a consortium of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The Global Trachoma Mapping Consortium expects to sample four million people by March 2015.
As part of this NGO consortium, ORBIS is supporting Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health to do the surveys in Ethiopia, where trachoma is a leading cause of preventable blindness.
ORBIS is the sole charity conducting trachoma work in the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples Republic (SNNPR), a region of Ethiopia known for its difficult terrain and extremely limited access to safe water.
Using a new mobile app, teams are able to conduct surveys and upload the data to open-access disease maps. This is the first time mobile data has been used to survey a global health issue on such a wide scale.
Using the information ORBIS will be expanding its successful trachoma elimination programme to cover all endemic regions in the SNNPR by 2020.
Below is a map of the regions in Ethiopia that The Global Trachoma Mapping Consortium has mapped so far:
The red dots on this map show the parts of Ethiopia where people have been examined for signs of trachoma. (Image courtesy of the Global Trachoma Mapping Consortium).