Neglected tropical diseases and eye health

While neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have been recognised for centuries indeed as ‘biblical plagues’ – NTDs have, as the name implies, remained below the radar of most international and national policy-makers.

This relative neglect can be seen in examining the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) framework : while NTDs are supposedly included in MDG 6 under ‘other diseases’, they are largely forgotten in favour of the HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) parts of MDG 6, as evidenced by the fact that there are no indicators speci !c to them (Molyneux, 2008).

One possible explanation for international disinterest is that NTDs almost exclusively affect the developing world (though this is also true for malaria) and are not likely to spread far beyond ; indeed, many NTDs have disappeared completely in the developed world due to improved hygiene and sanitation standards. Similarly, they tend to affect the poorest people, who have little political voice or lobbying capacity (World Health Organization (WHO), 2010). They are also largely chronic conditions, which, with few exceptions, are not prone to epidemics.

Read more about NTDs and reducing poverty HERE.

Some neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are fatal and others can cause serious physical impairments that particularly affect women and children. They are more prevalent in rural areas, slums and conflict zones.
The OPC fights two of them, trachoma and onchocerciasis.


Trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness) are NTDs which cause blindness and visual impairment. On a global level, at least 110 million people live in zones where trachoma is endemic. More than 210 million more people are considered at risk.
Nearly 4.6 million people suffer from trachiasis, an advanced stage of trachoma, which gradually and painfully develops into blindness.
In Africa, 90 million people are at risk from onchocerciasis.
Bad eye health is a significant cause of poverty. Even minor eye infections can affect a person’s capacity to work and limit a child’s access to education. The risk that a child will give up schooling doubles when the head of the family is affected by onchocerciasis.



Proven strategies exist to reduce the spread of tachoma and onchocerciasis. With appropriate intervention these two illnesses could be eradicated in the next 10 years.
Trachoma treatment costs only around $0.40 and $0.90 for onchocerciasis treatment. Access to drinking water and sanitary facilities is essential to the prevention and control of most NTDs.
Trachoma is endemic in zones where there is a deficiency of drinking water and sanitary facilities.
The CHANCE program proposes to eradicate this blinding disease through preventative and curative methods :
- Surgery to correct the upper eyelids from turning inside and to prevent he aggravation of trachiasis ;
- Antibiotics to treat trachomatosis ;
- Cleaning of the face ;
- Changes of environment to reduce infection and spread.

The implemention of the CHANCE program relies upon a collaboration, not just with the health sector, but also with partnerships in the education sector and with water and sanitation services.

The OPC has fought onchocerciasis since 1979 in Mali, in the Congo, in Guinea and in Senegal.

Every year 3 800 000 people are treated for this serious illness thanks to over 26 million tablets distributed in over 6 000 villages by volunteer community health agents trained by the OPC. To find out more, click HERE.

The OPC also fights trachoma in the CAR and in Chad

with its partners, organising the training of volunteer community agents whose mission it is to give out antibiotic treatments in their villages and health agents who specialise in trachiasis operations.

2015 Targets :

- Community agents : 3317 in the CAR and 5649 in Chad
- Specialist health agents : 35 in the CAR and 53 in Chad
- Treated people : 4 900 000 the the CAR and 405 000 in Chad
- People operated on : 900 in the CAR and 2 500 in Chad

To find out more click HERE.

Source IAPB - 2013
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, of which the OPC has membership