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WHO declares Nepal first to eliminate trachoma in 11 South-East Asian nations

Narayan Dhungana

Kathmandu - Nepal has become the first country in the South Asia to eliminate trachoma – one of the oldest infectious eye diseases in the world. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Nepal the first nation among 11 South-East Asian countries under its domain to alleviate trachoma after meeting the stipulated criteria. 

At a function to celebrate elimination of trachoma in the capital on Thursday, Regional Director of World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh handed over a certificate of trachoma disease elimination in Nepal to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Upendra Yadav. 

Trachoma is known to be the second leading cause of preventable blindness in Nepal. It is an infectious disease caused by bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids. This roughening can lead to pain in the eyes, breakdown of the outer surface or cornea of the eyes, and eventual blindness. 

Doctors have said that the poor sanitation, crowded living conditions, and not enough clean water and toilets also increase spread of the disease. 

Acting Secretary at Ministry of Health and Population Sushil Nath Pyakurel said the disease was eliminated with collective efforts while calling for active participation of all actors to keep the achievement. 

The government has become successful in eliminating trachoma through its arduous efforts as the disease can be easily spread by both direct and indirect contacts with an effected person’s eyes or nose. 

On the occasion, DPM Yadav termed the trachoma elimination a big achievement in the public health sector. 

Trachoma was found spread in Nepal since 1989. 

South East Asia Regional Director of World Health Organization, Dr Singh, appreciated Nepal's success, saying it was worth sharing to others. 

USAID Mission Director Amy Tohill Stull shared happiness that USAID had been cooperating Nepal since 2008 and the success is achieved in a decade. 

Chief of the Health Coordination Division at Ministry of Health and Population, Mahendra Shrestha, and others said all sides need to continue collaboration to retain the status. 

Trachoma in less than five percent of children 
The national trachoma programme was initiated in Nepal in 2002 with the financial and technical support of International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), USAID and Helen Keller International. 

Officiating Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population Sushil Nath Pyakurel informed that the trachoma, taken as a serious problem, now became a minor problem after the activities were accelerated as per the strategy suggested by the World Health Organization. As many as 10,000 social mobilizers and 16,000 health volunteers were involved in making the programme successful. Similarly, Nepal distributed 14.7 million dozes of antibiotic- azithromycin- till 2014, the Ministry added. 

Currently, only less than five percent of people belonging to 1 to 9 year age group have trachoma symptoms, while 0.2 percent people over 15 years have this symptom. 

Then Minister of State for Health and Population Padma Aryal had received the certificate mentioning Nepal as a trachoma free country during the 71st General Assembly of WHO in May early this year. (RSS)

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