By Taddeo Bwambale
AT least eight million Ugandans are at risk of suffering from Trachoma, health minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has said.
Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness, and also one of the neglected tropical diseases.
In commemoration of World Sight Day marked on October 10, Standard Chartered Bank has earmarked sh50b ($20m) to prevent blindness in several countries, including Uganda.
Through partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, the Bank targets to elimination avoidable blindness under its ‘Seeing is believing’ campaign.
Dr Rugunda hailed the support towards elimination of trachoma which manifests gradually and, in some cases, leads slowly and painfully to permanent blindness.
“I am delighted that The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has embarked on this joint partnership with Standard Chartered Bank, in a shared campaign against avoidable blindness,” he said, according to a press statement.
“I am enormously grateful to the Bank, not only for their most generous donation, but also for the leadership that the company has given on this particular health issue over the past ten years.”
Globally, Trachoma is responsible for visual impairment of about 2.2 million people, with 1.2 million of them permanently blind, according to the World Health Organisation.
The joint initiative targets 17 million people in Africa, with focus on ending blinding trachoma and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition that affects infants who get inadequate attention in their first days of life.
The target countries are Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria. The Trust will work with expert NGOs in these different territories to implement the programmes over the next five years.
The new partnership launched on World Sight Day, is aimed at eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
The British High Commissioner, Alison Blackburne, said the ambition to accelerate impact and raise awareness about avoidable blindness should be collective responsibility.
“We are proud of the partnership and we look forward to seeing the importance of eye care increasing on the global health agenda,” she said.
The CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Uganda, Herman Kasekende, said the donation would help fund a blinding trachoma programme that will reach about 5 million people in Uganda.