There's an app for that - phones help map Ethiopia's eye disease

In a major achievement for global trachoma elimination, a smartphone-driven survey in Ethiopia has identified where treatment is urgently needed for millions of people infected with the eye disease.
  • Trachoma mapping identifies high-risk areas
  • Catchment of 30 million people to benefit
  • Rapid rollout of treatments to begin this year
In just five months, health workers in Ethiopia's Oromia region pinpointed 37,000 households and 176,000 people at risk of trachoma due to poor water availability, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

They recorded what they found using an innovative smartphone app linked to a web-based system that calculates and maps the trachoma hotspots right across Oromia, which is one of the worst affected regions in the country.

This geographical profile will now be used to plan elimination programs for a catchment of over 30 million people.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is part of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control consortium supporting the project, which is funded by the UK Government and led by Sightsavers. More than 30 of the world’s countries will be mapped over the next three years.

"This mapping is the culmination of an extraordinary effort that has brought together the best available resources for planning, implementation and research to achieve maximum impact with our mapping," said Virginia Sarah, The Foundation’s Global Trachoma Initiative Director and Vice Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.

"If blindness is to be prevented, this type of rapid assessment and mapping, disease surveillance and resource mobilisation is critical."

With mapping complete, a five-year program to treat trachoma in the Oromia region will begin this year, said Sarah.

"We need to think big and be bold, ambitious and innovative in order to address the massive response required," she said.

“We will be working with partners to dispense the donated antibiotic Azithromycin in 10 districts and undertaking associated health promotion activities.

"We will also perform 10,000 surgeries by the end of the year.

"Mapping identified a tremendous backlog. To address this we will upscale existing clinical and surgical outreach campaigns by mobilising teams to be on the road all the time."

Trachoma in currently being mapped in Nigeria and Mozambique and will take place in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands in late 2013.

Trachoma is a disease of poverty and the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness.

One person is blinded by trachoma every 15 minutes.

The infection and its transmission can be reduced with surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental change, known as the S.A.F.E strategy and developed by the World Health Organization.

> Find out more about The Foundation's work in Ethiopia.
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