Trachoma is a disease caused by a contagious bacterial infection of the eye, commonly spread through contact with contaminated hands or clothing and by flies coming into contact with a person’s eyes or nose.

National coverage (2016) People treated with antibiotics for trachoma out of population living in known endemic areas that warrant treatment with antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement for elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.

Preventive chemotherapy coverage

WHO roadmap target:

Global elimination as a public health problem by 2020

The global trachoma programme was rapidly scaled up in 2015 and 2016. Antibiotics for trachoma were given to 85 million people in 2016 in the context of the SAFE strategy (surgery for inturned eyelashes, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement). This represented 45% of the population in need and an 80% increase in coverage from 25% in 2014. The number of patients with trichiasis (inturned eyelashes) who were reached with services almost doubled between 2014 and 2016, and five countries have achieved elimination. Despite rapid growth, the programme still has significant work to do, both in reaching areas still without access to services and in achieving elimination in the areas that are most acutely affected.

85 million people were treated with antibiotics for trachoma elimination in 2016 80% increase in antibiotic coverage rates since 2014 500 million doses donation milestone reached at the end of 2015

The tremendous progress in 2015 and 2016 is due to strong collaboration among all the partners in the global programme. Joint efforts include completion of the Global Trachoma Mapping Project, rapid scaling up of SAFE interventions, preparation of guidelines and an action plan for elimination and strategic coordination of donor work on trachoma in Africa. Nevertheless, resources are urgently required to extend the SAFE strategy to the many areas that still lack access to services, to assess the prevalence of the disease and to undertake operational research.

The newly established Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Trachoma is coordinating a robust research agenda. Important questions include post-validation surveillance and progress in areas of high prevalence. Additional resources are essential to move the research programme forward.

Thanks to strong commitment from Pfizer and close coordination with partners, the problems in drug supply reported previously have been resolved, and the antibiotic donation programme has been scaled up for increased implementation. In late 2015, the donation programme celebrated its 500 millionth dose. By the end of 2016, the annual shipment was approximately double the preceding annual averages.

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