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Iraq becomes 18th country recognised by WHO for eliminating Trachoma

Iraq has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the 18th country to successfully eliminate trachoma as a public health concern. This achievement also marks Iraq as the fifth nation within the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region to accomplish this milestone. Additionally, the WHO has acknowledged Iraq as the 50th country to eliminate at least one Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) on a global scale. This accomplishment signifies a significant step towards the goal of having 100 countries achieve similar milestones by 2030, as outlined in the 2021-2030 NTD roadmap. This roadmap aims to address and combat 20 different diseases and disease groups through prevention, control, elimination, and eradication efforts.

Efforts by Iraq in eliminating trachoma:

  • In 2012, Iraq launched its national trachoma program to eradicate the disease. They developed a surveillance system to detect and manage cases in eye care facilities, schools, and collaboration with the Ministry of Education. Thousands of healthcare staff, including refractionists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, and eye surgeons, contributed to these efforts.
  • Post-elimination, Iraq and WHO will continue to closely monitor previously endemic areas to detect and if necessary, combat any resurgence of disease.

About Trachoma:

  • It is a contagious bacterial eye infection caused by bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It primarily affects the surface of the eye and the inside of the eyelid.
  • It is transmitted through direct contact with the eye or nose secretions of infected individuals or from fomites and flies or indirectly through contaminated objects like towels or clothes.
  • With time, it causes the eyelashes to be pushed inward into the eye. So with every blink, they brush against the eyeball. This form of trachoma is called trichiasis. If it’s not treated, trichiasis can lead to blindness.
  • The SAFE strategy: It includes Surgery to treat the blinding stage (trachomatous trichiasis); Antibiotics to clear the infection, particularly the antibiotic azithromycin; Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement, particularly improving access to water and sanitation.

Key Points

  • Trachoma remains endemic in six countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region. However, significant progress has been made in reducing the number of people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma elimination purposes, decreasing from 39 million in 2013 to 6.9 million as of April 2023.
  • 17 other countries that have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem are Benin, Cambodia, China, Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu.

Important takeaways for all competitive exams:

  • WHO Director-General: Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus;
  • WHO Founded: 7 April 1948;
  • WHO Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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