Myanmar has been validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.
The announcement follows annual period prevalence data from 2010 to 2015 showing that active trachoma in children under 10 years of age across all the regions and states in Myanmar ranged from 0% to 0.0537%, which is below the WHO threshold of less than 5% of trachomatous inflammation follicular in children aged 1–9 years. Surveillance has also confirmed that levels of trachomatous trichiasis, the late blinding stage of trachoma, are below the WHO threshold of less than 0.2%.
Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, has long been considered a public health problem in the country, with the first Trachoma Control Project initiated in 1964 by the Ministry of Health and Sports, with support from WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Since 1964, political commitment in Myanmar has enabled the establishment of services through a three-tiered eye-care system, regular surveillance, outbreak investigation on and capacity-building for identifying and managing cases. Political leaders have also invested to ensure adequate human resources through the training of health personnel.
Myanmar has taken several steps to ensure the sustainability of elimination. Most notably, trachoma is integrated into its National Eye Health Plan 2017–2021, which aligns with the Global Strategy for Prevention of Avoidable Blindness (VISION 2020) and the WHO Universal Eye Health Global Action Plan 2014–2019, which aims to coordinate eye-care services and advance the country towards universal health coverage.
“Myanmar’s validation for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem demonstrates what can be achieved with strong country ownership, effective cross-sectoral partnerships, and the integration of trachoma programmes into national eye care plans”, said Scott McPherson, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control. “These principles lie at the heart of the draft WHO road map for neglected tropical disease 2021-2030. ICTC congratulates Myanmar for its forward-thinking approach and success”.
The announcement follows the publication of the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record in July, which reports the number of people at risk of trachoma has reduced by 91% – from 1.5 billion in 2002, to 136.9 million in May 2020.
Myanmar is the second country in the WHO South East Asia Region to achieve elimination and the 10th country to achieve elimination globally, following Cambodia, China, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Oman.
Image on top: Female Burmese residents are in the Suture Lab Practicing with Pigs eyes by Anthony Minassian