Behind the Scenes: Eliminating Trachoma – An Interview with Moumine Yaro

Explore the intricate world of global health with Moumine Yaro, a passionate advocate in the fight against trachoma, a preventable and blinding neglected tropical disease. In this blog, Mr. Yaro shares inspiring success stories, discusses the challenges in medicine distribution, and highlights the crucial role of political leadership, community engagement, and international support in the mission to eliminate trachoma. Join us for a glimpse behind the scenes of a global health initiative and witness the transformative impact of dedicated individuals striving to make a difference.

Note: Responses have been refined for clarity and coherence.

Introduction: “My name is Moumine Yaro. I’m originally from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and I hold an MBA in marketing management. I am a Sr. Supply Chain Specialist for the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), a program of the Taskforce for Global Health (TFGH), affiliated with Emory University. I coordinate donated medicine shipments to beneficiary countries to fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).”

Role and Responsibilities: “In my daily work, I collaborate with countries, making forecasts, understanding supply chain and distribution data, and working with suppliers to meet countries’ demand. Our work involves five-year, two-year, and one-year forecasts to ensure supply meets demand. We also provide technical support to beneficiary countries, ensuring they have the infrastructure and knowledge to manage donated drugs properly.”

Collaboration and Partnerships: “Primarily, we collaborate with pharmaceutical companies, especially Pfizer, which donates half of its production of the antibiotic azithromycin to treat nearly 80 million individuals lining in trachoma endemic areas globally every year. We also work with USAID, UKAID, SightSavers, the World Health Organization, ministries of health in recipient countries, national programs, implementing partners like OPC, local NGOs, non-profit organizations, and donors like End Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance public health programs and build capacities on the ground for effective public health programs.”

Journey of Antibiotics: “The journey of azithromycin starts with Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that makes Zithromax®, an antibiotic recognized for its effectiveness against trachoma. Pfizer funded the International Trachoma Initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma. Azithromycin is part of the SAFE strategy endorsed by the WHO, focusing on Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement. We collaborate with organizations like OPC to conduct baseline and impact surveys identifying endemic areas and measuring progress, design and implement programs in countries, and coordinate last-mile transportation of donated Zithromax® to beneficiary communities living in hard-to-reach areas.”

Challenges in the Distribution Process: “One challenge is the lack of visibility within the system from the donor standpoint, especially in the last mile. We recommend systems that provide vouchers and records specifying the quantity and batch numbers during the movement of medicines. Additionally, issues arise in dealing with community drug distributors (CDDs) who may lack education and struggle to provide accurate distribution data. Drug expiration is another challenge due to a lack of visibility, leading to countries having significant +quantities of expired drugs. It’s crucial to stay vigilant on this.”

Impact and Success Stories: “The impact is significant. I’ve witnessed countries like Nigeria, once heavily affected, now achieving milestones, and turning green on the trachoma prevalence map. Seeing a country certified trachoma-free is the highest level of success. Despite challenges, such as stolen medicines, interventions can turn the situation around, as exemplified by a country now on the verge of being declared trachoma-free.”

Message to the World: “I’d like to emphasize the need for national programs in endemic countries to take ownership and leadership in eliminating neglected tropical diseases. Political will and community engagement are crucial. Donors should continue supporting global efforts and building capacities in endemic countries. Diseases don’t know borders, and collaboration and partnership between countries are essential for a healthier world.”