"NIGERIA: Installing toilets to reduce blindness"
IRIN reports on an HKI's trachoma control program in Nigeria's Borno State. Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of preventable blindness in the world. It is a painful disease that results from a bacterium prevalent in poor communities that have limited access to adequate sanitation and clean water.
According to an HKI survey, two-thirds of Borno’s 15 districts are trachoma-endemic, with half of those infected being primary-school-age children. "Between 2002 and 2007 HKI went from village to village to spread public health messages; helped people treat trachoma with a simple antibiotic (tetracycline) eye ointment; performed surgery on 781 people with advanced cases - called trachiasis - where the eyelashes turn inwards, scratching the cornea and causing blindness. The organization focused on 344 of the most at-risk villages in 10 of the 15 affected government areas in the state."
HKI staff also constructed ventilated pit latrines for primary schools in 10 villages in the worst-hit area of Bama near the Cameroon border, and trained teachers to detect the signs of trachoma early in their pupils.
The program was successful and trachoma rates in these schools declined. However, the challenge is to continue the healthy behaviors children are taught in school when they return home.