French-speaking countries in West Africa are joining forces to eliminate trachoma under a new initiative spearheaded by The Task Force’s International Trachoma Initiative (ITI).
In September, ITI convened the first meeting of representatives of the ministries of health from 13 francophone countries in West Africa to discuss funding, logistics, and supply-chain management issues around the mass drug administration of antibiotic for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.
One of the goals of this initial meeting of francophone countries was to get countries with well-developed trachoma elimination programs to share best practices with their peers. As a result of the meeting, Mali and Senegal, which are close to eliminating trachoma. are now planning to share their knowledge and experience with the other francophone countries in the region.
“These countries that share a common language can also share the resources and best practices needed to eliminate trachoma,” said ITI Director Paul Emerson, PhD. “When countries work together, they better understand each others’ needs for resources and technical support and where those should be directed.”
ITI will continue working with the countries to ensure that they reach their elimination goals, including providing antibiotic and technical assistance for disease surveillance. Also planned are web-based information exchanges and annual meetings among the countries.
The francophone meeting was the latest effort by ITI to foster greater collaboration among African countries for trachoma elimination. In July, ITI convened meetings with representatives of ministries of health from 10 countries in East and Southern Africa to discuss strategies for reaching nomadic populations.
ITI worked with the l’Organisation pour la Prévention de la Cécité, (OPC), to organize and fund this first meeting of francophone countries.
ITI manages Pfizer’s donation of antibiotic for trachoma elimination and is working with partners to eliminate the disease as a public health problem by 2020. Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness.