A former National Trachoma Control Co-ordinator, Mr Joseph Akudibillah, has been honoured by the government for his role in eliminating Trachoma in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in May adjudged Ghana as the first country in the world to eliminate Trachoma, the leading cause of blindness, and Mr Akudibillah was said to have been very instrumental in that remarkable feat.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Akudibillah, who is currently Ghana’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Rome, expressed his gratitude and excitement about the award, saying “it is a recognition of my tireless pioneering work on Trachoma control in Ghana.”
“It was least expected because I left the programme at a point and went into politics but this was at a time when we had achieved so much in controlling Trachoma in Ghana,” he added.
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It has been two decades after the global community committed to eliminating Trachoma worldwide and based on the achievement, some individuals and institutions were rewarded for their role in eliminating the condition and one of such recipients is Joseph Akudibillah.
Sharing his thoughts on the disease, Mr Akudibillah explained that “it is a contagious bacterial infection of the inner surface of the eyelid, which causes inflammation.
He stated that “at the chronic stage, it leads to scarring of the conjunctiva, turning in of the eyelashes (Trichiasis) which painfully rub on the eyeball and may lead to avoidable and irreversible blindness. It is very common in areas where there is lack of water, inadequate sanitation and the abundance of eye-seeking flies,” he said
Public health problem
Mr Akudibillah, who was a co-ordinator of the Bawku Rural Eye Programme, described Trachoma as a public health problem in many countries across the globe and said the disease was endemic in the Northern and Upper West regions where it was a public health concern.
“I did a lot of lid surgeries for Trichiasis while embarking on outreach programmes with support from Christophel Blinden Mission (CBM) of Germany to offer eye care services to the rural poor,” he indicated.
He and his team, Mr Akudibillah indicated, used the “SAFE” strategy—an acronym couched from Lid Surgeries, antibiotics, face washing and environmental changes recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
To achieve the objectives, the Vatican ambassador said his team first carried out an operational research to establish the prevalence of Trachoma in the northern part of the country after which they got involved with the pilot research for the distribution of Azithromycin by community volunteers in the Northern Region.
Mr Akudibillah called for an improved environmental sanitation and personal hygiene by separating cattle from places of abodes as well as the provision of good public places of convenience to reduce the presence of eye seeking flies that transmit the bacteria trachomatis.
He said there must also be total socioeconomic development with an improved empowerment of women with financial support and formal education since the disease was known to be prevalent among women due to greater child to mother and mother to child transmission.
Finally, he said communities should have access to potable water.