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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

UK commit £20 million to tackle preventable blindness across Commonwealth

Written by Ella Pickover

The UK is to plough £20 million towards an ambitious plan to rid the Commonwealth of the leading cause of preventable blindness over the next two years, officials have announced.

The Department for International Development said that it is hoped the money will help eliminate trachoma - a bacterial eye infection - in Commonwealth countries by 2020.

Trachoma is the leading cause of preventable sight loss across the world, although it is rare in developed countries.

The infection - which can cause eyelids to turn inward, or eyelashes to grow towards the eye, scratching the cornea - affects nearly 52 million people across 21 Commonwealth countries.

Officials said that the money will help provide antibiotics and surgery to patients in need as well as education programmes to help stop the spread of infection.

It will also help experts map out disease hot spots across Tanzania, Nigeria, Pakistan and Kenya.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt (pictured) said: "UK aid has already made a huge difference to vulnerable people in countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, freeing families trapped in a cycle of poverty as the disease passes from one generation to the next.

"In Malawi for example, four years ago eight million people were at risk of trachoma and now no-one is.

"This further commitment will mean millions of people across the Commonwealth will receive vital sight-saving treatment and we will be on course to eliminate this ancient and avoidable disease."

The money comes from a £360 million funding commitment made in April last year to tackle tropical diseases like trachoma and guinea worm.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Nick Ansell / PA Wire.