The Fred Hollows Foundation has joined its global partners to celebrate the administration of the 500 millionth dose of Zithromax (azithromycin) tablets, an antibiotic used to treat the blinding eye disease trachoma.
The milestone was marked in Ethiopia which has the world’s highest burden of trachoma. It is a significant achievement in the global effort to help eliminate this infectious and preventable eye disease.
"The Fred Hollows Foundation is proud to play its part in the global fight against blinding trachoma, distributing millions of doses of sight-saving Zithromax throughout Africa and Asia," Chief Executive Officer Brian Doolan said.
"Working together with other partners, we believe we can eliminate trachoma and we are ramping up our efforts to tackle the disease in Ethiopia and around the world.
“Last year The Foundation administered more than 7 million doses of trachoma antibiotics and next year we will work with partners to massively increase those efforts, administering almost 29 million doses.
“This milestone highlights what is possible when partners work together and is a remarkable achievement in our fight to eliminate trachoma globally.”
In Ethiopia 75 million people are at risk and The Fred Hollows Foundation and other global agencies, including pharmaceutical company Pfizer, are working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to significantly expand the number of people in Ethiopia who are treated.
A young woman in a Fred Hollows Foundation anti trachoma club was chosen to take the ceremonial 500 millionth dose of Zithromax at the global celebration.
Tigist Teferi, 14, was chosen to take part in the 500 millionth dose ceremony at Denbeli Keta Village of the South West Shewa Zone in Oromia.
“The Grade 7 student is one of four daughters in her farming family and she has been selected because she is a leader in her school’s push to eradicate the blinding disease by raising awareness about the importance of facial cleanliness and hygiene,” Mr Doolan said.
“The Fred Hollows Foundation has been training teachers to establish anti-trachoma clubs in schools across Ethiopia because we know we can only eliminate trachoma if we adopt the SAFE strategy – Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements.
“We are very excited that Tigist has been chosen for this honour from one of the clubs we support to take part in this important celebration.”
The global celebration has been organised by The International Trachoma Initiative, Pfizer Inc and International Coalition for Trachoma Control along with 12 supporting partner organisations.
Pfizer has donated the 500 million doses of Zithromax, which are administered by development agencies and organisations like The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Trachoma is an infectious disease, which can develop into a condition in which eyelids turn in and eyelashes scrape the eyeball, causing great pain, corneal ulcers and irreversible blindness.
There are 232 million people in 58 countries at risk, with more than 80 percent of the global burden of the disease concentrated in 14 countries, mostly in Africa.
Trachoma is responsible for the visual impairment of about 2.2 million people, 1.2 million of whom are irreversibly blind. It threatens entire socio-economic infrastructures and as a result, is estimated to cause USD $3-6 billion in lost productivity per year across affected countries.
Organisations represented at the celebration include The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, The World Health Organisation, Pfizer, Sightsavers, USAID, DfID, The Carter Centre, ICTC, ITI, Lions Clubs International Foundation, RTI ENVISION, Orbis International, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and Light for the World.