Launch of Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Programme in Nairobi

Speech by, British High Commissioner, Dr Christian Turner on the launch of Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Programme

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Christian Turner
  • I am delighted to be here today, alongside CS James Macharia at the launch of this important initiative, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Programme.

  • As we have already heard today, trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world yet it is an entirely preventable disease. It is responsible for 3% of global blindness, causing 1 adult to go blind in every 15 minutes. Up to 230 million people are at risk of catching the disease with 70% of those affected being women. Stopping trachoma before it gets hold can make a significant difference to people’s lives, especially women.

  • The pain, low vision and blindness caused by the disease can trap people in a cycle of poverty preventing them from going to work. Women and children may also have to give up education or employment to provide care to affected family members.

  • Preventable diseases that affect poor people are a priority for the UK government and we are determined to put the needs of people with disabilities first. Better access to eye care services will help provide a better future for people with disabilities and their families.

  • Globally, UKaid is helping to tackle avoidable blindness by supporting the agenda of vision 2020-a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness by 2020 which includes cataracts, glaucoma, trachoma and river blindness. The UK government has also signed up to the WHO Action Plan to prevent avoidable blindness. In 2012 DFID made £50 million available to support this work in for the prevention and control of trachoma. This includes funding for the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP) which is a project helps identify the disease burden of trachoma in unmapped areas that are suspected to be trachoma endemic, as well as support to implement the ‘SAFE’ methodology in up to 6 countries in Africa

  • And, of course as we are hearing today, the UK Government, through DFID, has also committed match funding of up to £50 million to The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust for programmes across the Commonwealth that tackle avoidable blindness, including trachoma.

  • I am delighted that this new initiative will benefit Kenya, and will build upon previous investments and scale up our work in this important area in this country. In Kenya, over the past three years, DFID has already been supporting Sight Savers to provide eye care which includes efforts to prevent and treat trachoma.

  • The goal of the new initiative to support the elimination of trachoma in Kenya by 2019 is ambitious but by building on previous investments, and by working in close partnership with stakeholders with the full backing/engagement/support of the Ministry of Health, the goal is entirely achievable. This is an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of many Kenyans and is an opportunity we mustn’t waste. The Trust’s Trachoma Initiative will support the existing Kenya Trachoma Action Plan (TAP) that the Ministry of Health has developed to achieve elimination.

  • It is my hope, that this initiative that will target 12 Kenyan counties will achieve its targets of assisting 41,000 people to receive surgery to prevent blindness, improve cleanliness to stop the spread of the disease, and see three million people receive the critical antibiotic treatment they need.

  • But we mustn’t forget that vertical initiatives such as these that provide targeted skills, medications and services still require a functional and effective health system to deliver.

  • Shortages in health workers, facilities, equipment and funds can mean it is difficult to reach the people most in need with interventions such as these to tackle avoidable blindness.

  • I strongly welcome the leadership shown by H.E President Kenyatta at the UN General Assembly last week, hosting an event on domestic financing for health, and making commitments towards improved financing for critical health care delivery in Kenya.

  • The UK provides £1 billion in bilateral health aid across the globe, and is supporting work to strengthen health systems to support better delivery of essential health services. Health is one of the major areas of our support for Kenya, and we will continue to support efforts of the Government of Kenya and its partners to step up efforts in the health sector.

Published 3 October 2014