Every day, thousands of people around the world work to ensure people living in remote communities at risk of trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, have access to the resources they need to help prevent and treat the disease. Though their roles may be different, they are all working towards a common goal: a trachoma-free world.
From manufacturing the antibiotic used to help treat trachoma, to distributing the antibiotic in affected communities, to performing surgery on those suffering from trichiasis, the blinding stage of the disease, the roles in the fight to eliminate trachoma are wide-ranging.
Girija Sankar and Luis Pabón Quintero are two of the individuals working toward trachoma elimination. Sankar’s organization, the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), partners closely with Pfizer Inc., the manufacturer of the antibiotic, to manage the distribution of Pfizer’s donated antibiotics.
“As a person who lives in the United States and works in disease elimination, we have the responsibility to ensure that other people also have the same access to opportunities to pursue their dreams, hopes and aspirations the way we do,” says Sankar, assistant director of programs and communications at ITI. “Every individual has that responsibility to their fellow human being.”
Quintero, who works in Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico, oversees the packaging of the antibiotic. “If I could talk to someone with trachoma, I’d tell them not to give up, that we are all in this battle together,” he says.
The efforts of Sankar and Quintero are having a real impact in countries still affected by trachoma.
“There has been great improvement since we started disbursing these medications,” says Stanley Ephraim, chief and village headman of Khungubwe, Malawi, one of the communities affected by trachoma. “The problem is decreasing. I am confident that we can completely eliminate trachoma.”
Continued cross-sector partnerships between public and private entities such as governments, pharmaceutical companies, donors, philanthropic organizations and civil society are vital to ensure the 182 million people still at risk of trachoma receive the care and treatment they need. The combined work of individuals such as Sankar, Quintero and Ephraim are helping bring the global community closer to achieving a world without trachoma. Together, we can eliminate this debilitating disease.