Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that makes your eyelids turn inwards until your eyelashes scrape against the surface of your eyes. Slowly, agonisingly, you go blind.
It stops children from playing with their friends and going to school. And it stops adults from working, looking after their families and being a productive part of their communities. Yet trachoma is totally preventable and treatable. Trachoma can be treated with an antibiotic, at a cost of as little as 15p per treatment.
The good news is that trachoma is on the verge of being eliminated as a public health problem across the world - but more support is needed to end trachoma entirely.
So I’m proud that Virgin Unite is playing a part in a new effort, The Accelerate Trachoma Elimination Programme, which brings together the charity Sightsavers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), The ELMA Foundation, the UK government and Virgin Unite.
Accelerate was born from The Audacious Project, which funds critical projects that have the potential to create massive, global change. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to work with Chris Anderson from TED, Jeff Skoll and many other great partners to have helped to spark the Audacious Project.
The Audacious Project aims to end blinding trachoma for good in 10 African countries, and supercharge progress in a further three. It’s a goal that’s achievable through teamwork by bringing together affected communities with governments, donors, pharmaceutical companies and international organisations.
Some success stories have already been seen around the world - in June 2018, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country and Commonwealth country to eliminate trachoma. Other previously endemic countries that have eliminated it include: Oman, Morocco, Mexico, Cambodia and Laos, Nepal and Iran.
It was great to hear inspiring stories at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg at the end of last year. As well as celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela, a key theme of the event was improving health for all, and it was great to see organisations rallying support to end neglected tropical diseases like trachoma.
Now everyone has the chance to help end trachoma. Sightsavers is launching an appeal and all donations made before 15 May will be matched by the UK government, pound for pound, up to a total of £2 million. Together we can eliminate trachoma by 2025.