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Saudi Arabia eliminates trachoma as a public health problem

Published: 18.02.2022

On 26 January 2022, the World Health Organization validated Saudi Arabia as having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, making it the fourth country in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region to achieve this milestone.

Saudi Arabia is the 12th country to achieve this milestone globally.

Trachoma is a neglected tropical eye disease. Children acquire the infection at a young age. Inflammation can then lead to progressive scarring of the eye lid, with long-term consequences years or even decades later that can lead to blindness.

Saudi Arabia’s success in eliminating trachoma is largely attributed to the efforts of the Ministry of Health following the integration of a comprehensive eye care programme into primary health care services, and in collaboration with the efforts extended by other public sectors, including the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

“This is a remarkable achievement that has saved people from preventable visual impairment or blindness. It is about improving quality of life and well-being,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for Eastern Mediterranean. “Such success stories are encouraging and help us to eliminate more diseases in our Region.”

“The elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Saudi Arabia further emphasises what can be achieved with strong country-leadership and cross-sectoral approaches to integrate trachoma into routine health services. It demonstrates what can be achieved if we implement the new WHO road map for NTDs”, said Dr Angelia Sanders, Chair, International Coalition for Trachoma Control. “ICTC congratulates the government of Saudi Arabia for this significant achievement”.

Launched in January 2021, Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases, targets trachoma for global elimination by 2030.

Although 44 countries are known to require interventions for trachoma, the number of people at risk of trachoma has reduced by 91% from 1.5 billion in 2002 to 136.2 million in 2021, including a reduction of people in the WHO EMR from 39 million in 2013 to 11.3 million in May 2021.

Image taken from WHO EMRO