Ethiopia puts the spotlight in preventing trachoma during Global Handwashing Day

wash hands

Ethiopia celebrates Global Handwashing day for the first time integrating it with face washing. During the event, speakers focused on creating awareness on the role of hand and face washing to prevent communicable diseases including trachoma. Trachoma is a disease caused by a bacteria that can lead to blindness. WASH for Trachoma Elimination (WASHTra) project supported the event celebrated in Oromia region.

Surveys revealed that Ethiopia has the highest prevalence rate of active trachoma which is responsible for 11.5% of the blindness and 7.7% of low vision in the country (or region?). According to the national survey Health Sector Transformation Plan 2015, the Government of Ethiopia has identified trachoma as one of the neglected tropical diseases. Investment is needed for its prevention and control.

Trachoma is commonplace in 318 out of the 337 woredas in the Oromia region where SNV implements WASHTra. One of these woredas is Gimbichu, a model wored where more than 15 sectors implement their activities, to realise the Woreda Transformation Agenda[i]. This agenda aims to create model kebeles that achieve positive results in toilet construction, creating open defecation free (ODF) kebeles, schools and health facilities.

The Regional Health Office Deputy Head Miheretu Tarekegn underlined that hand and face washing should not be a one-time activity but a continuous practice. He urged students and teachers to practice face and hand washing at least at critical times and take the message home.

Ashrafedin Youya, representative of the Ministry of Health, said the ministry takes responsibility in creating healthier citizens. Ethiopia organises such events to enhance awareness on public health issues. “This year’s message ‘Clean Hands and Toilets for All’ will help to create awareness on the contribution of keeping hands clean in preventing the spread of communicable diseases” added Ashrafedin.

WASHTra aims to reduce the prevalence of Trachomatous inflammation – follicular (TF) to <5% through sustained change in facial cleanliness and handwashing practices, use of improved sanitation and integration/mainstreaming of trachoma and WASH interventions. It is implemented in seven woredas of the Oromia region.

WASHTra is applying the global SAFE[ii] strategy developed by WHO to serve as trachoma elimination strategy. SNV WASHTRA project is responsible in implementing the F and E components in intervention areas.

[i] Woreda transformation has three components: creating model kebeles, ensure communities have financial protection through community-based health insurance and make all the health facilities in the woredas high-performing facilities. A model kebele will have at least 80% of the families in the kebele implement all the health extension packages, will be free from home delivery and open defecation.

[ii]  SAFE is an integrated strategy developed by World Health Organization consisting of surgery for trichiasis, antibiotic therapy, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement.