Volunteers vow to rid mainland of trachoma
Lions Clubs International yesterday announced an ambitious plan to eliminate trachoma from the mainland by 2016.
The international volunteer organisation pledged US$2.7 million for its SightFirst China Action project, which will fund the third stage of its campaign to combat the highly contagious but preventable disease which can cause blindness.
Established in 1999, the project is jointly run by the Ministry of Health and the China Disabled Person's Federation. The project will also include an education programme and training for health care workers, with the World Health Organisation to provide technical assistance.
The bulk of the funds - US$1.6million - will be used to conduct a survey in endemic areas, mainly western provinces, to gauge how prevalent trachoma is on the mainland.
Peter Lynch, executive director of the Lions Club International, said trachoma was believed to have been eradicated in many areas on the mainland, because of improved sanitation and hygiene, but that some remote provinces were still affected.
'It's a very achievable challenge. We expect after the survey, we will need to invest a further US$6 million to US$7 million on distributing antibiotics and for surgeries.'
Lynch said his organisation met the Ministry of Health last week in Beijing to discuss the logistics of the survey which is expected to start early next year. The rest of the funds announced yesterday will go towards two rehabilitation centres for low-vision people in Guangdong and Liaoning and a pilot integrated eye-care services centre in Liaoning.
The rehabilitation centres will provide support for people who have limited sight by teaching them how to use aids such as binocular lenses, magnifiers and white canes.
The number people the World Health Organisation estimates have been blinded by to trachoma globally