Community health workers in Kenya - most trained with Foundation support - are playing an increasingly important role in helping to eliminate trachoma.
They’ve been credited with a large upswing in the number of people who agreed to take part in a Mass Drug Administration program in the north west of the country this year.
To date, 728,340 residents of East Pokot and West Pokot counties and Trans-Mara district, where trachoma is hyper-endemic, were each given an antibiotic designed to help prevent the spread of the potentially blinding disease. The Foundation trained 2,000 of the 2,500 Community Health Workers who carried out the Mass Drug Distribution.
“Community health workers raise awareness among communities, they encourage people to seek help for their eye problems and this helps strengthen local ownership of the project,” said The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Kenyan country manager, Jane Ohuma.
Our community health care workers visit a school as part of the program. But it wasn’t an easy job. Two and a half thousand community workers came up against transport difficulties and poor communications in some areas as they tried to gain access to nearly 800,000 people.
While the workers went door to door, other teams publicised the Mass Drug Administration in markets, schools, churches, hospitals and health centres. Information was also broadcast on radio and via a mobile video van.
The Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness in the Pokot and Massai communities. A coordinated push to combat trachoma began there in 2012. This year’s Mass Drug Administration is the first of a six-year commitment.
The administration of Azithromycin (donated by Pfizer) is part of the International Trachoma Initiative after evidence that a single dose can reduce the prevalence of active trachoma for up to 12 months after treatment.
It’s also one of the four strands of the World Health Organization’s SAFE strategy to stamp out the disease where the S stands for surgery, the A for antibiotics, F for facial cleanliness and the E for environmental change.