Funding boost of $36.5m will help eliminate blinding disease in Africa


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Plans to eliminate the blinding disease, trachoma, from 16 African countries, including Zimbabwe, have been boosted with $36.5m in new funding. Twelve of the countries supported through the Accelerate programme, led by the non-profit Sightsavers, hope to eliminate trachoma by 2027 and three will make significant progress towards this goal in that time.

Trachoma begins as a bacterial infection, with symptoms similar to conjunctivitis. But repeated infections cause scarring that makes people’s eyelashes turn inwards and scrape painfully against the eye with every blink. Left untreated it can lead to sight loss and permanent blindness.

Peter Bare, Country Director for Sightsavers Zimbabwe, said: “Trachoma is a horrific disease which stops people from earning a living, growing food, cooking and caring for their families and going to school. People describe the pain as like having sand or thorns in their eyes.”

“Through Accelerate, Sightsavers was able to support the government of Benin to eliminate trachoma in 2023 and this new funding will supercharge our support for 16 more countries, including Zimbabwe, to finally end the scourge of trachoma.”

The additional funds will extend the Accelerate programme, which began in 2018, as part of The Audacious Project, hosted by TED. The new funding is from international donors which include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The ELMA Foundation, and, for Zambia, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust as well as Sightsavers own contribution.

Sightsavers has more than 70 years of experience working with governments in more than 30 countries to control and eliminate NTDs. To date, they have supported ministries of health to deliver over 1.7 billion NTD treatments and worked with governments in Ghana, Gambia, Malawi, Benin, and Mali to successfully eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

The twelve countries targeted to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem by 2027 are Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Kenya, and Mozambique will make significant progress towards elimination. The fund will also contribute support to Ethiopia, which carries the highest burden of the disease in the world.

Find out more about Accelerate at

Sightsavers is an international organisation that works in more than 30 low- and middle-income countries to end avoidable blindness, treat and eliminate neglected tropical diseases, and promote equality of opportunity for people with disabilities. Sightsavers’ vision is of a world where no one is blind from avoidable causes and where people with disabilities can participate equally in society. It is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110).

Globally 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment and of these, at least 1 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. This burden weighs more heavily on poorer countries, and marginalised communities. And projections show that global demand for eye care is set to surge in the coming years.