The Foundation has welcomed a $16.5 million Federal Government boost to tackle trachoma in Indigenous Australia.

Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon announced today the funding to increase screening and treatment rates for the disease in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program Manager Jaki Adams-Barton said it is shocking that Australia is still the only country in the developed world to have endemic trachoma.

“More than 30 years ago Fred Hollows saw the unacceptable levels of trachoma in outback Indigenous communities and spearheaded a program that treated over 27,000 people,” she said.

“I think Fred would be horrified that trachoma still exists today and expect us to do everything we can to defeat it.”

“This Government support will go some way towards the goal of eradicating trachoma by the year 2020.”

Trachoma is a major cause of preventable blindness in remote communities, thriving in dry, dusty areas.

Rates amongst Indigenous Australian adults are at 6.2 times higher than in Australia’s non-Indigenous population.

It is critical to eradicate trachoma in childhood so people can avoid its effects in later life – which can cause blindness.

This is the second stage in a $58.3 million program, which began in 2009, to improve eye and ear health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.