Stopping trachoma’s pain and blindness for GOOD

If we want to help communities in Ethiopia beat the blinding and highly infectious trachoma eye infection for the long haul, it will take digging wells, capping springs, building latrines, and it will take changing behaviour through education.

3-year Action Plan for Amhara, Ethiopia

Clean water + Proper Sanitation + Good Hygiene = Healthy Communities

Clean Water

Plan, design and construct 200 water systems (hand-dug wells, deep-drilled wells, capped springs) in high need areas, giving 40,000 people access to clean water.

Cost = $5,490 per dug well or capped spring

Proper Sanitation

Build school and village model latrines for 20 kebeles (communities) and teach community members to build their own latrines, giving 35,000 people access to improved sanitation and hygiene.

Cost = $2,667 per shared latrine

Hygiene Education

Cover 20 kebeles (communities) with hygiene education and trachoma awareness, through 25 school clubs, 200 water committees and training 200 health professionals and 200 village health workers.

Cost = $3,867 per community

Healthy Communities

Giving 20 communities or “kebeles” access to clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene and primary eye health education.

Benefit = 62,000 children, women & men with SAFE eyes

We have never before seen such a significant positive impact on our community.

elderly woman in Faya Kebele

How trachoma blinds

Step 1

A dirty hand, tears from crying babies, or a germ-carrying fly comes into contact with a victim’s eye. The infection spreads primarily from children.

Step 2


Infection feels like raw little cuts on the underside of the eyelid. With repeated infections, scar tissue builds up causing the eyelid to turn inward.

Step 3


The eyelashes come into contact with the cornea, break off, and scratch the eyeball with every blink.

Step 4

The cornea is cut and then heals, leaving opaque corneal scarring. The victim suffers permanent visual impairment.

Step 5

Permanent and irreparable loss of sight.

Keeping eyes SAFE

Hope and Healing International has adopted The World Health Organization’s approved strategy for fighting trachoma. It combines sight-saving prevention and cure initiatives.


Eyelid surgery to stop the blinding stage of the disease.


Pfizer-donated Zithromax® to treat and prevent active infection.


Facial cleanliness to help reduce transmission of disease.

Environmental Change

Change to improve access to clean water and sanitation.

Trachoma elimination is in sight

World map of trachoma control areas
trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness.
countries endemic of trachoma
people are at risk of trachoma.
USD $3-6B
lost in productivity per year due to trachoma.
country validated elimination of trachoma.
countries reported elimination of trachoma.

Love Costs

Serkie doesn’t know it, but every time she cuddles and comforts her baby daughter, Hayte, she puts herself at risk of blindness. Babies and young children like Hayte are the prime carriers of trachoma, a highly infectious eye infection.

Years of re-infection eventually causes blindness – especially for moms like Serkie who are the primary caregivers for their children.

Hayte cries. Serkie takes off her own headscarf and wipes away Hayte’s tears. Then later in the day, she mops her own brow and voila, a recipe for re-infection. Again and again.
When we found Serkie, she had resorted to plucking out her eyelashes every few weeks – painfully ripping out each lash – because that pain wasn’t as bad as feeling sharp bristles scrape against her eyeball.

That’s what years of trachoma infection does to a person. By the time we found Serkie, Trachoma was slowly blinding her, blink by blink, as eyelash bristles scraped the cornea and created light-blocking scar tissue.

Serkie fears for her baby and for her 13-year-old boy. She doesn’t want them to ever have to face the kind of pain she’s lived with.

I’m worried about my little daughter Hayte and my son Aragaw. I don’t want them to catch this disease, to suffer this horrible pain – or to even turn blind. I want them to have a good future.


Mitch’s slide show from Amhara, Ethiopia

Mitch Wilkie is Hope and Healing International’s Director of International Programs. He recently did a monitoring visit to ORDA – Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara – our partner implementing the SAFE strategy in Amhara, Ethiopia (Surgery, Antibiotics, Face-washing and Environmental change).