NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 – The Ministry For Public Health and Sanitation has launched a nationwide initiative seeking to reduce the spread of Trachoma, an eye ailment that could cause blindness if it remains unchecked.
Assistant Minister James Gesami said on Thursday that the ‘Kenya National Plan for the Elimination of Trachoma’ seeks to prevent the spread of the ailment.
Study findings by the government have revealed that eight million Kenyans are at risk of being blinded by Trachoma, while 45,000 others have been blinded by the disease.
Mr Gesami has illustrated that among the measures to be taken are a sensitisation exercise for communities living in arid and semi-arid areas.
“This is a preventable disease. Provision of water and improved sanitation can eliminate Trachoma,” he pointed out.
“We as a ministry are also going to put in some budgetary support so that we can eliminate this disease by 2015,” the Assistant Minister added.
He was speaking during a forum in Nairobi, where he also further stressed the need for health education to be included in the curricula for primary schools.
“We are saying that Trachoma is a disease of the poor and a disease of a dirty environment,” he stated.
Mr Gesami emphasised the need to educate school-going children on the need to uphold hygiene in their activities.
“We will be going back to entrench the school health policy in terms of what we used to be told in those school days, that we should wash our hands before eating,” he explained.
Trachoma is the result of an infection of the eye with Chlamydia Trachomatis, a bacteria.
It is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and occurs where people live in overcrowded conditions with limited access to water and health care.
Infection spreads from person to person, and is frequently passed from child to child and from child to mother, especially where there are shortages of water, numerous flies, and crowded living conditions.
Infection often begins during infancy or childhood and can become chronic.
If left untreated, the infection eventually causes the eyelid to turn inwards, which in turn causes the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball, resulting in intense pain and scarring of the front of the eye.
The disease progresses over years as repeated infections cause scarring on the inside of the eyelid, earning it the name “quiet disease.”
This ultimately leads to irreversible blindness, typically between 30 and 40 years of age.
Assistant Minister Gesami said on Thursday that antibiotics can prevent long-term complications if used early in the infection, including Erythromycin and Doxycycline.
In certain cases, eyelid surgery may be needed to prevent long-term scarring, which can lead to blindness if not corrected.