Iraq joins the league of countries that have successfully eliminated trachoma. This milestone comes as part of Iraq’s National Trachoma Program, which was initiated in 2012.

This topic of “Trachoma” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

What is Trachoma?

Trachoma is a bacterial disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis that affects the eyes. It is characterized by several stages of inflammation, eyelid scarring, in-turned eyelashes (trichiasis), and corneal clouding (opacity). If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

Symptoms of Trachoma

  • Mild itching and eye irritation
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Pus draining from eyes
  • Blindness if untreated

The Significance of Trachoma

Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease and the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world. It poses a significant public health challenge, particularly in regions with poor access to healthcare and sanitation.

How Does Trachoma Spread?

Trachoma is highly contagious and spreads through contact with the eye or nasal discharge of infected individuals. The disease is prevalent in areas with poor sanitation and crowded living conditions.

The 5 Stages of Trachoma (as classified by WHO)

  1. Inflammation — Follicular: Early infection with five or more follicles on the inner surface of the upper eyelid.
  2. Inflammation — Intense: The eye becomes highly infectious, with irritation, thickening, and swelling of the upper eyelid.
  3. Eyelid Scarring: Repeated infections lead to scarring, which is visible as white lines on the eyelid. This can lead to the distortion and entropion of the eyelid.
  4. In-turned Eyelashes (Trichiasis): Scarring causes the eyelashes to turn inward, scratching the cornea and potentially leading to vision impairment.
  5. Corneal Clouding (Opacity): The cornea becomes affected by inflammation and scratching, leading to clouding and further vision impairment.

Prevention of Trachoma

Trachoma can be prevented through various measures, as there is no vaccine available for the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates the use of the SAFE strategy:

  • Surgery: For advanced forms of trachoma, surgery may be required to correct eyelid deformities caused by scarring.
  • Antibiotics: Treatment and prevention of trachoma can be achieved through the use of antibiotics, such as azithromycin, which help in reducing the infection.
  • Facial Cleanliness: Promoting face and hand hygiene can help in reducing the spread of the disease.
  • Environmental Improvements: Ensuring access to clean water, proper waste management, and controlling fly populations can help in preventing trachoma.

Countries Eliminating Trachoma

Iraq’s achievement marks the 50th country to eliminate one neglected tropical disease, and it sets the pace towards the World Health Organization’s target of eliminating trachoma in 100 countries by 2030. Other countries that have successfully eliminated trachoma include:

  • Benin
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Togo
  • Vanuatu

Trachoma in Iraq

Iraq’s National Trachoma Programme, initiated in 2012, has been successful in eliminating trachoma from the country. As the 50th country to achieve this milestone, Iraq’s efforts are commendable in the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Global Efforts Against Trachoma

The fight against trachoma is ongoing, with various countries and international organizations actively working to combat the disease. Through the implementation of the SAFE strategy and promoting better hygiene and sanitation, trachoma’s prevalence can be reduced, leading to a healthier world with improved vision for millions of people.


Trachoma, a bacterial eye disease, has been a leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. However, recent efforts by countries like Iraq, along with the support of the World Health Organization, have shown that this disease can be eliminated through proactive measures. By continuing to implement preventive strategies and ensuring access to proper healthcare and sanitation, we can pave the way towards a trachoma-free world, where preventable blindness is a thing of the past.

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