The World Health Organization leads an international alliance of interested parties to work for the global elimination of trachoma, the Alliance for Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020).
Trachoma is an infectious disease responsible, at present, for approximately 3% of the world's blindness. Worldwide, there are about 8 million people irreversibly visually impaired by trachoma; an estimated 84 million cases of active disease in need of treatment, if blindness is to be prevented.
The Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020) supports and collaborates with WHO in carrying out essential activities such as epidemiological assessment, including rapid assessment and mapping, project implementation, coordination, and monitoring, disease surveillance, project evaluation and resource mobilization. It is open to all parties - governments, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations - which are willing and ready to contribute to international efforts.
International efforts to eliminate trachoma as a blinding disease will be based on the WHO-developed strategy - a combination of interventions known by the acronym "SAFE" which stands for surgery for trichiasis (inturned eyelashes), antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement. These interventions will be community-targeted and will seek community involvement through the primary health care approach. These decisions were taken at a meeting, convened by the WHO programme for the Prevention of Blindness and Deafness (PBD) and held at WHO's headquarters in Geneva from 25 to 26 November 1996. The meeting was attended by representatives of a number of international nongovernmental development organizations (INGDOs), the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the philanthropic section of Pfizer International Inc. - the company that owns the patent of azithromycin, a new long-acting antibiotic which may be used to fight trachoma. This drug is replacing tetracycline eye ointment, still used in many countries in trachoma treatment. Because of certain disadvantages, topical tetracycline has not been fully accepted in community-based programmes. Azithromycin is already been used in those countries approaching the final elimination of trachoma as a blinding disease. The experience of Morocco, first country that used azithromycin in large-scale, nation wide elimination programme, has paved the way for the worldwide application of azithromycin as part of the SAFE strategy in the fight against the disease. WHO and its partners are supporting implementation of the SAFE strategy in the endemic countries that decided to eliminate trachoma as a result of political engagement and technical capability.