Global & Disaster Medicine

World Sight Day: October 12, 2017

World Sight Day 2017

Today, October 12, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrates World Sight Day, an opportunity to increase awareness about eye health and diseases that can lead to blindness.

Man blinded by trachoma. CDC photo, Sonia Pelletreau

For more than two decades, USAID has been preventing and treating blindness, restoring sight, and providing eyeglasses to thousands of people in the poorest communities of the world through the Child Blindness Program. This program includes provision of sight-restoring surgery, screening children for eye diseases and conditions, and delivering eyeglasses to schools. Children who are irreversibly blind receive specialized education to learn Braille, use a cane, and improve their daily living skills.

 

USAID also addresses infectious causes of blindness for children and adults through its Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) program. Trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, is one of seven Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) on which USAID focuses. It is a bacterial eye infection that can lead to blindness. USAID’s strategy to reduce the incidence of trachoma combines treatment with prevention. USAID works closely with a broad range of partners dedicated to the global elimination of trachoma, including Pfizer, Inc., which has donated more than 500 million Zithromax® treatments to USAID’s priority countries. Thanks to these and other efforts, 84 million people across 13 countries now live in areas where treatment for trachoma is no longer required.

 

In September, Cambodia and Laos were certified as the fourth and fifth endemic countries globally to have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. The only other countries that have received this acknowledgement are Mexico, Morocco, and Oman. This is evidence that current strategies to eliminate trachoma are working, adding another reason to celebrate World Sight Day 2017.

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