The importance of improving sanitation and the environment in the fight against avoidable blindness
There are an estimated 9 million children in Ethiopia suffering from the blinding disease trachoma. On a recent visit to Dita in southern Ethiopia, I witnessed first-hand the importance of improving the environment in the fight against avoidable blindness.
ORBIS has adopted the four aspects of the World Health Organizations SAFE strategy. These are surgery to correct the advanced form of trachoma, distribution of antibiotics to treat the early stages, education with regard to the importance of face washing and personal hygiene and the improvement of the environment with regard to building latrines and providing access to clean water. In order to completely eradicate trachoma in southern Ethiopia, all four aspects of the SAFE strategy must be implemented at the same time.
ORBIS is working alongside local communities to improve the surrounding environment through improving access to clean water and sanitation.
Dita is located in a very remote part of southern Ethiopia which is not easily accessible, particularly during the rainy season. With a population of 100,000 people it is difficult to establish and maintain proper sanitation facilities. As a result, bacteria can spread quickly and trachoma infections are very common. Until recently, open field defecation around the periphery of the villages was a common phenomenon in the area.
Health education through ORBIS trained teachers, health extension workers and integrated eye care workers; combined with the construction of model communal latrines has reduced the open field defecation practice.
These changes in attitude in Dita are resulting in more and more locals realizing the importance of good personal hygiene and sanitation and they are also building their own household latrines using local materials.
The active involvement of communities is central to the complete eradication of trachoma and other bacterial infections. The construction of these latrines and the increased practice of using these facilities are central to the fight against avoidable blindness in the region.
9 November 2012
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