The World Health Organization, a critical partner of the Organization for the Prevention of Blindness (OPC), has officially announced that Benin and Mali, two western African countries, have eliminated trachoma as a public health issue. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, shared:
“WHO congratulates the health authorities of Benin and Mali and their network of global and local partners for these milestones.”
We celebrate this major accomplishment with our own partners, including generous donors who believe, like us, that everyone has the right to sight, no matter where they are born. Our partners and donors make the life-changing, sustainable work we do possible.
Benin and Mali join fifteen countries worldwide that have accomplished this health milestone, including Cambodia, China, the Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu.
In WHO’s African Region, the individuals needing antibiotic treatment for trachoma has been reduced by 44%, dropping to 105 million between 2014 and 2022. While there has been considerable progress in overcoming the trachoma endemic, there is much work to be done to accomplish WHO’s goal to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including trachoma, by 2030.
Public Health in Mali
OPC is proud to take part in this major accomplishment with our long-standing programs in Mali, as well as other Francophone African countries still working to overcome the endemic.
Through the decades…
Beginning in the 1980s, we helped create the first national-level eye health program in Mali, called “Yeleen,” or “light” in Bambara – the native language spoken in places like Mali. In just six short years, we had conducted 1.25 million consultations, 23,000 cataract surgeries, and opened five vision centers, resourced with one ophthalmologist and two nurses each.
In the 1990’s, we participated in the first massive campaign against Onchocerciasis in West Africa. Onchocerciasis is a NTD caused by an infection from a parasitic worm, causing blindness. This was a critical pilot proving NTDs could be controlled through cost-effective, mass campaigns.
In the early 2000s, we directly treated advanced trachoma cases, called trachomatous trichiasis, where the eyelid was turned inward and scratching the cornea (the final stage leading to vision loss).
Today, we are still active in Mali:
- Strengthening Mopti’s regional hospital and enabling them to better welcome and care for infants and children, including the training of ophthalmologists, nurses, midwives, and primary care health workers, as well as providing equipment and organizing screening campaigns.
- Organizing internships for each annual promotion of new ophthalmologists graduating from CHU-IOTA (Bamako). About 10-12 doctors come from Mali and West Africa each year to work in Mali’s rural regional hospitals, performing cataract surgeries and participating in screening campaigns.
Extending our Congratulations
While we are grateful for WHO’s recognition of our work to end NTDs, we want to extend this honor to our donors and partners who are critical in reaching our goals.
We also recognize the substantive work of nonprofits such as Sightsavers, the Carter Center, and Helen Keller International for their leadership in preserving the right to sight in regions like Benin and Mali.