“I remember Darfur as being one of the most beautiful areas of Sudan. The Mara Mountain was a well-known tourist destination, with the people being warm and welcoming.”

Adam Elkhair, Sightsavers

Community volunteers

Photo: © Simon Bush

90% of community health volunteers are women

Since the start of the conflict in Darfur, thousands of people have been forced to abandon their farms, homes, livestock and property. Livelihoods have been lost, and the way of life, which had existed for generations, was disrupted.

As displaced people moved across the country or made their way to the camps set up by humanitarian organizations, delivering any assistance to affected communities became increasingly challenging.

Many people were infected with trachoma. We suspected the numbers to be high and the area to be endemic. But in order to tackle the problem we needed to know where those affected people lived.

Being able to map trachoma meant that when the security situation began to improve, we could step in. With funding from the END Fund and improved security, Sightsavers was able to start the region’s first MDA campaign to treat blinding trachoma in Central, West and North Darfur states.

2 million people were treated to prevent trachoma

Recruiting community volunteers

The first phase was finding community health volunteers to distribute the drugs. After years of not having proper health care, people were keen to receive training and be part of a team of volunteers helping to eliminate this disease in their communities.

The community volunteers were trained not only to distribute the drugs but also to support those with concerns about taking the drugs and to teach the community about the causes of trachoma, how to prevent it and how to seek treatment.

Going house to house to prevent trachoma

The MDA campaign was carried out house to house across Darfur to ensure coverage. The role of community volunteers was essential to the success of this campaign.

This programme in Darfur is a success story. Not just because of the huge number of drugs administered for the first time ever or for the large number of volunteers and health workers trained. It is also because many mothers are now aware of how to prevent trachoma and how to seek treatment. This is helping Sudan move closer to its trachoma elimination target and improving the lives of its citizens.

“We have learnt about the importance of face cleaning and
environmental sanitation and other useful hygiene tips.”

Asha Ahmed, Community member from Abu Zereiga village

This is part of Reaching a Billion, the fifth progress report of the London Declaration on NTDs. Read the full report.