Today is European Antibiotics Awareness Day and the topic of responsible distribution and drug resistance is high on the agenda. Thanks to carefully planned and targeted prescription, this cost effective medicine is being used to relieve and improve the sight of people in communities suffering from the painful and debilitating condition of trachoma. ORBIS uses a mobile app to map where communities are at risk and are currently distributing antibiotics in Gurage Zone Ethiopia, to help reach as many people as possible.
ORBIS is also addressing the underlying causes of this disease and reduce the reliance on antibiotics by providing communities with sanitation and educating people about the importance of face washing with clean water. By doing this we can start to help those vulnerable avoid this horrible and life altering disease.
The condition is extremely contagious and can spread through communities rapidly. People suffering from trachoma will first experience sore, red and scratchy eyes and after years of repeated exposure, the injured eye lid turns inwards, scraping the surface of the cornea, resulting in permanent damage and blindness if left untreated.
Local ORBIS eye care workers are targeting hard to reach rural areas and communities in order to get treatment to those most at risk. Through these programmes, ORBIS can distribute Zithromax® antibiotics to over 1.9 million people in one year alone. £10 can treat as many as 40 children suffering from this disease.
It is thought that close to 110 million people live in areas where trachoma is confirmed to be endemic and 80% of the active trachoma cases are concentrated in 14 countries, affecting the poorest of the poor. The SAFE initiative is a strategy for tackling trachoma endorsed by the World Health Organisation. It stands for:
- Surgery – righting turned in eyelids
- Antibiotics – tackling the condition with Zithromax® antibiotics and preventing infection
- Facial Cleanliness – washing of face and eyes with clean safe water can prevent the transmission of the disease
- Environment – good sanitation and access to clean water tops the spread of trachoma
Meselech is 23 and her village are part of ORBIS's trachoma antibiotic intiative. At first, she says, people were unsure of the benefits of the drug or if it was safe.
By the second and third doses the community could themselves feel the benefits.Meselech is very positive about Zithromax and grateful that her village has the opportunity to receive it. She and all her family have taken all three doses. Three doses are recommended to eradicate the disease.
The first round in Meselech’s village received an 81% uptake, second 86% and the third 96%.
Meselech says: “We know that the drug is not everything. Whether we take it or not we have to wash our face and hands and use latrines. We are also more aware of the health centre services available and we demand a good level of service from the centre and from our local government.
“Before ORBIS we didn’t know anything about what was hurting our eyes. Now through leaflets, billboards, radio and teachers we know a lot of information. And I have now informed my parents and family so we all have made a change.
“I knew at least ten people in my village that had their eye lashes scratching their eyes, and now they have had surgery and are taking steps to not get the condition again.”
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