World Water Day 2022

Anti-Trachoma School Clubs are a Game Changer in Ethiopia

©CBM/ Hayduk

CBM’s work in Ethiopia has provided 250,000 people with water and informed 1.8 million people on the cause, prevention and treatment of trachoma and the importance of facial cleanliness and environmental sanitation.

School children in the Amhara region of Ethiopia are taking a collective stand against trachoma.  

The CBM funded Amhara Trachoma Control Programme (ATCP) working with partner ORDA (Organisation for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara) has set up 319 Anti-Trachoma School Clubs - an initiative in which school children actively participate in behaviour change exercises that have helped their families and communities fight the spread of Trachoma – a disease caused by the bacteria infection known as Chlamydia trachomatis. Silda Primary School is a successful example. 

The potentially blinding disease Trachoma is prevalent in 70% of Ethiopia and the country carries 50% of the overall global burden. It is especially endemic in water scarce areas. 

CBM’s approach to trachoma prevention and control follows the World Health Organisation’s SAFE strategy which is made up of four components – Surgery to address the infection in its final stage, Antibiotic treatment, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements, including the provision of clean water. The children in the Anti-Trachoma School Clubs learn about the importance of hygiene, and the role of safe water and latrines in preventing trachoma.  

Here is why CBM implements this SAFE strategy.  

2.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water according to WHO (World Health Organization). Inadequate water and sanitation are a major factor in the spread of several neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) including Trachoma, Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), intestinal worms, Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis) and Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). People living in places with inadequate clean water supplies and poor sanitation conditions where these diseases thrive are prone to infections. An estimated 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths occur annually due to inadequate sanitation.  

Yet infections like these could be prevented much earlier. Interventions like simple hand and face washing with soap and clean water can stop the parasites that spread these diseases. Studies have shown that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions can contribute to a decrease in intestinal worms prevalence by up to 29 per cent, and a 77 per cent reduction in schistosomiasis.  

In the hygiene school clubs, five children and two teachers learn about trachoma prevention and control. They then promote the messages about trachoma among the other students and their communities. 

A Director of one of the schools, Mr. Fasil Amsalu, says: “We have seen a lot of changes, due to the Anti-Trachoma School Club member’s activities. Students are no longer suffering from communicable diseases and school attendance has increased.” 

Students are also mediators in their communities. When they go home, they transfer their knowledge to their families and villages. In this way, they raise the community's awareness of hygiene – and are thus the engine of sustainable change.