Photography: Malaria Consortium: Trachoma Prevention
Trachoma, bilharzia and intestinal worms, along with malaria, are among the world’s top preventable and forgotten tropical diseases. Easily prevented and treated, yet each cause debilitating effects to their victims. A simple, single dose of antibiotics treats these diseases, and in some cases prevents them from returning for up to one year. Before intercommunal violence and rebel militia groups overtook Unity state, South Sudan, Malaria Consortium conducted a mass treatment campaign for thousands of people in the state.
Trachoma is endemic in Unity state, spread primarily by flies and direct contact with infected hands or clothes. Left untreated, repeated trachoma infections result in entropion, a painful form of permanent blindness where the eyelids turn inward, causing the eyelashes to scratch the cornea. Children are the most susceptible to infection, but the blinding effects are often not realised until adulthood. Easy to prevent one would think – keep faces and hands clean and avoid areas with a lot of flies – but for nomadic cattle herders in South Sudan it is difficult to find access to clean water, and to avoid flies.
Millions of people in South Sudan do not have access to clean water. Drilling boreholes, access to health care, and health education activities in schools, churches and mosques are taking place through organisations like Malaria Consortium, but there are a number of areas in South Sudan that are unreachable by road or air.