Nepal first country in south-east Asia to eliminate trachoma: WHO


Nepal has become the first country in south east Asia to eliminate trachoma, world leading cause of preventable blindness of infectious origin, the World Health Organisation, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Nepal's achievement is commendable and results from a strong political commitment, intense community engagement and impressive leadership demonstrated by civil society," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region.

Trachoma was the second leading cause of preventable blindness in the Himalayan nation in the 1980s. "It is a big step towards the health of everyone and comes at a time when Nepal accelerates its fight against other neglected tropical diseases as well," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said.

A letter acknowledging the validation was presented to Nepal's Minister of State for Health and Population, Padma Kumari Aryal yesterday by Singh and Ghebreyesus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, where the World Health Assembly is in session.

In 2002, the Government of Nepal had stepped up the efforts to eliminate trachoma with the establishment of a national trachoma programme. The prevalence of active (inflammatory) trachoma in the country fell by 40 percent following the implementation of sustained control activities from 2002 to 2005, the WHO statement said.

The Nepal government, through the ministry of water supply and sanitation, provided incentives to local communities and districts to build and maintain latrines, measures that were crucial to improve sanitation and reduce the disease-carrying flies.

The national trachoma programme in that country also collaborated with the ministry of education to include a module on trachoma in the school curriculum, the statement said.

In 1998, the World Health Assembly had resolved to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem. Trachoma is a chlamydial infection which happens due to lack of hygiene, unclean water supply and can spread by contact with eye, nose, or throat secretions of a person suffering from the disease or indirectly via flies. The infection is particularly common among children.

The disease puts more than 190 million people in 41 countries at the risk of blindness. It is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of around 1.9 million people worldwide.

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