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UK applauds Malawi for eliminating trachoma

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The Countess of Wessex Sophie, who is also an ambassador for International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Thursday hailed the country for successfully eliminating trachoma, the infectious disease which leads to blindness.

Sophie, wife to Prince Edward, youngest brother of King Charles III, said Malawi has proven that eliminating trachoma is possible.

She made the remarks in Traditional Authority Maganga, Salima District, at a World Sight Day commemoration event.

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This was part of her three-day visit to celebrate Malawi’s achievement, which has been made possible with support from Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

“The success we celebrate today means that future generations of Malawians will not have to face the high risk of blindness caused by trachoma – the irritation, the terrible pain, the scarring and the darkness— nor the prospect of not being able to learn, work or cook without help and support,” she said.

Sophie, who is former vice patron of the trust, said the late Queen Elizabeth II was happy with Malawi’s success story.

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“She knew of Malawi’s achievement and was so pleased that this was made possible by the fund, eye sight being its principle objective. She was so happy for Malawians,” she said.

The Countess of Wessex has since expressed hope that all stakeholders would be vigilant to ensure that the disease does not resurface.

Her royal highness also visited Maganga Clinic in the area, where she engaged survivors of trachoma.

One of the survivors, Msagula Chingaipe, said regaining her sight has helped her live happily and productively in her community.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said Malawi will remain vigilant in terms of eliminating emerging root causes of blindness for the population to continue contributing to the socio-economic development agenda of the country.

She disclosed that, currently, there are 180,000 people who are totally blind, with 18,000 people becoming blind due to cataract, despite that 80 percent of the blindness and visual disability is preventable and curable.

“More than half of the people that are blind today need not to be blind in the first place. Their blindness could have been prevented with early intervention. Many of our parents in our rural communities are blind from cataract, a situation that can be reversed,” Chiponda said.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Director Neema Rusibayamila said the world loses $411 billion annually due to loss of sight, stressing the need to recognise eye problems as a health concern..

On September 21, WHO declared that Malawi trachoma free after 12 years of fighting the disease, becoming the first country in the Southern African region and fifth in Africa to eliminate the most tropical neglected disease.

The trachoma initiative targeted 17 trachoma-endemic districts where 22.25 million drug treatments were delivered and more than 6,000 surgeons of advanced cases were done.

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