Trachoma, an infectious disease and the leading infectious cause of blindness, has long been a major public health concern in Ethiopia. Highly prevalent in rural areas and associated with limited resources and infrastructure, approximately 67 million people live at risk of the disease, with the most marginalized and impoverished populations at the disproportionately impacted. Together with the National Ministry of Health, NALA has been implementing projects to address this issue, with the Sightsavers Accelerate Project one example.
Accelerate focused on improving facial cleanliness and environmental sanitation in endemic populations across Sub-Saharan Africa, with NALA leading project implementation in Southern Ethiopia. Consisting of four action areas that were adapted to suit the specific needs and context of the communities, through working with local partners and engaging the community, the program aimed to promote healthy hygiene and sanitation behaviors, with an emphasis on face-washing, handwashing, and the functional use of latrines in support of trachoma elimination.
The four interventions included:
a. Gamification: Utilizing interactive board games, challenge posters, and activity books to engage children in trachoma awareness and prevention, empowering them to becoming messengers of change within their schools and communities.
b. Health Extension Package: Equipping healthcare workers and volunteers with the necessary knowledge and skills to educate and support the community in trachoma prevention.
c. Sanitation Marketing: Empowering communities with income-generating activities to foster sustainability and promote better living conditions.
d. My Beautiful Family: Fostering pride in clean faces within the family setting through the use of photographs and mirrors.
Thanks to the innovative and engaging approach of the Accelerate Project, there has been a significant shift in communities’ understanding and approach towards trachoma prevention in Southern Ethiopia. By involving all factions of the community through targeted interventions, the project not only raised awareness but also created a powerful effect, leading to healthier practices within families and communities. Through the collective efforts of NGOs, government, and the communities themselves, Ethiopia is moving closer to eliminating trachoma and creating a healthier, brighter future for its people. Let’s continue to accelerate the change and prevent diseases together!