SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
â€œMY EYES have been itching for the past one year, after I took the trachoma prevention drugs, they are okay,â€ said 43-year-old Maramba township resident Elizabeth Mwandwe.
Mrs Mwandwe, mother of three can now enjoy a healthy life after taking the trachoma prevention drugs distributed in Livingstone by Government through the Ministry of Health in conjunction with sight savers.
Mrs Mwandwe who spoke amidst smiles said her eye would turn reddish in colour and was itchy, but after taking the trachoma prevention drugs the discomfort she felt became history.
This healing encounter which is also an assurance that a person would not get a trachoma infection in future is just one of the many stories recorded during the launch of the Trachoma prevention in Livingstone on Monday October 26, 2015.
And a Grade 11 pupil at Linda High School Martha Muteu observed that lately, a lot of people have been complaining of eye infections adding that the mass drug administration against trachoma was timely.
Ms Muteu said it was better for people to take the drugs to prevent disease outbreaks.
Trachoma is the worldâ€™s leading cause of preventable blindness, and one of the neglected tropical diseases often affecting the poor.
About 39 million people around the world are blind of which 80 percent of the blindness could be prevented or cured.
The statistics represent about 31.2 million people globally who are currently blind when it could have been avoided.
And speaking during the launch of the mass drug administration in the tourist capital, Livingstone district commissioner Omar Munsanje said the prevalence rate of the condition in the district stands at 10 percent.
He said the prevalence rate of eye infection in the tourist capital has necessitated the mass drug administration campaign to reduce or curb a possible outbreak.
Mr Munsanje said the contributing factors to the prevalence of the disease in the tourist capital include overcrowding, poor hygiene and poor environmental standards, which allow the germ to thrive.
He said Government is committed to improve the health of its people by embarking on preventive measures and also providing clean and safe water and improving sanitation to prevent trachoma and other preventable diseases.
â€œThe drugs dispensed in this exercise shall be free of charge. It is important that each family takes advantage of this free service, which will be conducted in all the catchment areas in Livingstone,â€ he said.
He disclosed that Government has through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development trained 390 health workers and community volunteers who were deployed in 130 health posts to provide a service closer to the family.
And Livingstone District medical officer Cliff Hara said the district will run continuous trachoma prevention campaigns for the next three years using the SAFE strategy.
He explained that S stands for surgery for those with the disease, A for antibiotics, F for facial cleanliness and E for environmental cleanliness.
â€œThis calls for reinforced and continued multi-sectoral approach towards stopping the further spread of the disease,â€
â€œDuring this exercise the community will be provided with free antibiotics and health education on facial cleaning and also improvement of safe water and sanitation,â€ Mr Hara said.
No countrywide studies on trachoma blindness have been conducted in Zambia; however, using the World Health Organisation data recommended calculation for blindness for sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated prevalence of blindness for Zambia is at 1 percent translating to 105,000 blind persons in Zambia.
In Zambian, trachoma accounts for 7.4percent of the blindness, and the others being cataract (55 percent), glaucoma (15 percent) and Corneal Opacities (12 percent).
Trachoma presents symptoms such as cloudy cornea, discharge from the eye, swelling of lymph nodes just in front of the ears, swollen eyelids and turned-in eyelashes. These symptoms may then progress to an opaque cornea resulting in blindness.
Trachoma blindness can be prevented by teaching sanitation, especially cleanliness of the face, and treating all infected individuals within a heavily infected community with oral antibiotics or antibiotic eye ointment early in the disease process.
Trachoma is a potentially blinding infectious eye disease spread by direct or indirect contact with infected individuals.
Improvement in the provision of toilets, discouraging the tendency of one family using one face cloth and proper disposal of garbage should be some of the interventions in controlling trachoma in the affected districts.
So far, the mass drug administration of trachoma has been conducted in Choma, Sinazongwe, Gwembe, Chikankata, Monze and Livingstone.
Blindness must at all cost be prevented were possible as it affects people to an extent where the individual is no longer able to work. Children drop out of school to take care of a parent with blindness and the family may have severe economic problems.
Because of profound visual disturbance or blindness, there may be an increased number of related injuries or even accidental death.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone