Grey Mist Lifting

A Weekly Blog About Lives Changed Through Eye Care

Brian Foster, Executive Director

How can clean water prevent blindness?


OE-HAPPY-WWD-2016-1It may seem odd that an organization dedicated to eliminating avoidable blindness is working to provide communities with clean water, but clean water is a crucial element in our strategy to prevent blindness, especially in Kenya and Zambia.

Without readily-available clean water, people can’t wash their faces and hands, clean their homes or wash their clothing. And if they can’t wash and sanitize, they can’t prevent the spread of diseases like trachoma, a painful eye disease.  

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Spread by bacterial infection, it transfers easily through contact with eye discharge from infected people on hands, towels and clothing, and also through direct transmission by flies.

Children are especially susceptible to trachoma, and because of their close daily contact with children, women are three times more likely than men to suffer the late painful stage of the disease. Left untreated, the eyelid eventually turns inward, causing the eyelashes to rub the eyeball and scar the cornea. This ultimately leads to irreversible blindness.

To prevent the spread of this terrible disease, we’re developing well programs in Kenya and Zambia. In fact, to ensure trachoma is eliminated once and for all, we’re implementing all four stages of the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy. SAFE stands for Surgery to treat trichiasis (the late stage of the disease), Antibiotics to eliminate infection, Face washing and hygiene education, and Environmental change.

This strategy has proven to be successful. In the village of Ongata Naado, Kenya, where we drilled our first borehole, trachoma is no longer a major problem. An impact assessment in 2010 showed that the prevalence of active trachoma has reduced from 30.5 percent to 11 percent in the overall county.

And that’s not all! If you were to visit Ongata Naado today you’d see a luscious vegetable garden, a school overflowing with students, and many healthy, happy families. An entire community has been transformed, all thanks to our generous donors!

We know there’s still much work to be done in countries like Kenya and Zambia – and we can’t do it alone. We hope we can count on your continued support as we work to prevent trachoma and preserve sight.

Today, on World Water Day, please share this blog post with your family and friends and help us educate others on the importance of clean water. Thank you for your support!

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    2 Responses to How can clean water prevent blindness?

    Excellent post about your amazing work, and with a timely connection to water that not many people would think in the spread of this eye disease. Just wanted to make a quick clarification that while there are many causes of preventable blindness around the world, and according to the WHO the leading cause of preventable blindness is cataracts, which impacts nearly half of the world’s blind and visually impaired. Regardless of the cause, we’re proud to work alongside your group in treating preventable blindness around the world!

    Operation Eyesight on April 15, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Thank you for your response, Matthew. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) both state that trachoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness, while the WHO states that cataract is the leading cause of visual impairment. It seems more clarification is needed, and we appreciate your note. Thank you for your support as we all work to eliminate avoidable blindness. Together, we’re doing great things… for all the world to see!

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