In their blog post “First treatments for trachoma distributed in Yemen“, Sightsavers tackles the complex issue of distributing 444,000 doses of the medication Zithromax to trachoma sufferers in war-torn Yemen. Sightsavers explains trachoma as “one of the world’s oldest diseases,” classified in a group of conditions called neglected tropical diseases. Trachoma begins as an infection and, as it complicates from a lack of treatment, creates “scar tissue … in the eyelid, turning the eyelashes inwards,” causing blindness over time with each blink and is estimated by Sightsavers to be a risk to 2.5 million people in Yemen.
Sightsavers notes that poor sanitation and water supplies are two of the chief conditions that “allows trachoma to thrive,” both of which are issues that Yemenites’ face on a daily basis due to their country’s ongoing civil war.
This is why Sightsavers sent in over 4,000 volunteers to scour hundreds of villages and distribute Zithromax®, as well as wash kits with hygienic aids and advice from the World Health Organization, to adults and children with the sight-threatening disease. Their mission was made possible by the Yemen Ministry of Health, WHO, CBM, the Fred Hollow Foundation, the International Trachoma Initiative and Sightsavers themselves.
Sightsavers Director of Neglected Tropic Diseases Simon Bush stated that because “communities, the ministry of health, and international organizations [came together],” about half a million people can be protected from trachoma, and that the win for them in Yemen can “…also have game-changing implications for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem across the world.”
Sightsavers notes at the end of their blog post that while they have not confirmed when other areas will begin being treated, “further distributions are planned.” They also note that they need to treat around 2,000 people with advanced trachoma (known as trichiasis), but need more funding before they can do so.