The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced this Friday that it will expand the fight against trachoma, an eye disease that causes blindness, in Latin America thanks to the contribution from Canada.
This endemic disease in many poor and remote areas of the world is caused by a bacteria and is transmitted by flies as well as direct contact with the eye secretions of infected people.
In Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Peru it affects almost 5.6 million people.
The collaboration between PAHO and Canada, announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the UN General Assembly in New York, will focus on these countries, PAHO said in a statement.
Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti and Venezuela “will also receive support” to strengthen surveillance, as will Mexico, the first Latin American country to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem in 2017, it adds.
Canada contributed 15 million Canadian dollars (US$11.2 million) to expand surveillance and treatment of the disease and reach about 10 million people over the next five years.
In Latin America, the indigenous populations of the Amazon basin are especially affected by this disease, which takes its toll on women.
“They are twice as likely to be affected by this disease and up to four times more likely than men to be blinded by trachoma,” PAHO states.
It is due to “a combination of factors,” such as their traditional role as caregivers in communities, lack of education and limited access to basic health services.
The Canadian contribution “will further advance our goal of eliminating preventable diseases,” said PAHO Director Jarbas Barbosa, quoted in the statement.