Saudi Arabia has reached a milestone in eliminating neglected tropical diseases in the region. The World Health Organization has 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.
Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease primarily affecting the eyes. Often Chlamydia trachomatis infections begin in childhood, with progressive scarring from irritation and inflammation impacts an individual’s sight – often the disease progresses to blindness.
The disease is a public health problem in 44 countries and is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people.
WHO’s Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) attributed Saudi Arabia’s success in eliminating trachoma to the efforts of the Ministry of Health. Whose efforts to connect eye health in primary care, private and public sectors as well as ministries, to create an inclusive program to fight trachoma.
The elimination efforts included working with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture to fight the root causes of flies which carry infection.
“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.”
EMRO reports that Saudi Arabia and WHO will continue to closely monitor previously endemic areas , with a “rapid, proportionate response” if there is an outbreak.
Furthermore, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is also planning to tackle other neglected tropical diseases, including schistosomiasis, worm infestations acquired from walking barefoot, and leishmaniasis.