Sightsavers, a UK-based organization that works to prevent sight loss, has announced a $105 million commitment from a coalition of funders in support of efforts to eliminate trachoma, a bacterial infection that causes people to go irreversibly blind.
The commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation UK, Virgin Unite, and UK Aid, among others, will support activities of the Accelerate Trachoma Elimination Programme to eliminate the disease as a public health risk in ten African countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'lvoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Through Sightsavers' SAFE strategy (surgery, antibiotics, face-washing, and environmental improvements), the initiative also will work to accelerate progress against trachoma in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and other countries where the burden of the disease is highest. According to Virgin Unite, trachoma is a public health problem in forty-three countries, with some 157.7 million people at risk of infection.
Announced at a Global Citizen concert in Johannesburg, South Africa, the commitment builds on an announcement made by the UK government in April 2018 to boost efforts to eliminate the disease through the Commonwealth 2018-2020 Fund. The Accelerate Trachoma Elimination Programme was launched with support from the Audacious Project, a philanthropic collaborative housed at TED that funds critical projects with the potential to create massive, global change.
"It is now within our grasp to be part of history and stop trachoma in its tracks,” said Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper. "This persistent disease blights the world's poorest communities and traps people into lives of intense pain. It can turn eyelashes inwards so that with every blink they scrape against the ball of the eye, slowly turning people blind. Yet it is treatable and preventable....Some of the most trusted names in modern philanthropy are now coming together to accelerate elimination efforts and make a huge contribution to getting us closer to the finish line. More is needed, but this will be a key intervention."