Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide, with an estimated 84 million people currently in need of treatment.
This painful disease results from a bacterium commonly found in poor communities that have limited access to adequate sanitation and water. If trachoma is left untreated, continued infection of the eyelid causes the eyelashes to turn inward and rake the cornea, leaving a person to literally blink him or herself blind.
Helen Keller International is helping six African countries increase their ability to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020. Since 2008 we have helped provide more than 150,000 of these simple 20 minute procedures in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Tanzania at a cost of just $40–60 per person. Our MMDP Project is helping to intensify these efforts especially to train local surgeons to conduct surgeries to preserve the sight of those afflicted. Our support has helped change the lives of many who thought they had forever lost their ability to see their children, grandchildren and the world around them.
Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, lost much of her sight due to a trachoma infection contracted as a child due to poor living conditions in the 1870s.
We are also helping communities create environments that can prevent the spread of trachoma over the long term. We work closely with local governments and other organizations to expand access to clean water. We have also introduced school health education programs to motivate children to make frequent face washing and other effective hygiene habits a part of their daily routines, and those of their families.