Trachoma is an eye infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium, and is a major cause of blindness especially in areas with limited access to water and sanitation. In Zambia, Trachoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Repeated infections lead to scarring of eye tissue. When this scarring happens, the eyelid eventually turns in on itself and eyelashes continuously scratch at the cornea, which may eventually lead to blindness. The infection can be spread by bacteria on the legs of flies, and the common sharing of cloths to wipe the face, especially of children. It is responsible for three percent of global blindness.
To eliminate the infection, Akros teamed up with Sightsavers Zambia, with support from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), to implement a data-driven response to healthy hygiene behaviors as part of a four-pronged SAFE strategy, including Surgery, mass drug Administration (MDA), and promotion of Face washing an Environmental cleanliness.
Part of the social and behavior change strategy for the Sightsavers Trachoma Elimination project included identifying ways to ensure that families keep children’s faces clean and free of secretions all day using soap and water. Because many older children (age 4-10) are often in school or independent during the day, and not always directly under the care of their parents, the project reached these children through the school-based CLTS program, coupling face washing with hand washing in schools.
The program piggybacked on Zambia’s mobile-to-web WASH MIS, built and expanded with Akros support, now handed over to the government and active across all rural districts. The WASH MIS protocol delivers monthly, community-level indicators on sanitation and water access into a cloud-based server.
Akros is motivated to continue working alongside the Government of the Republic of Zambia’s Ministry of Health and Sightsavers towards the shared global mission of trachoma elimination by 2020 (WHO GET2020).