A week-long Trachoma awareness, screening and treatment targeting children of school entry level (ECE to grade 3) or aged 5 to 9 has commenced this week in the Central Islands Province (CIP).
The program is known as “School Trachoma F&E (Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvement) and is focusing on providing information to children to have the knowledge on the importance of person hygiene particularly keeping the face clean. In CIP, this program started in 2019 with community profiling that collected information on water, sanitation as well as assessing school children’s behaviours and practices on the use of water and sanitation.
Trahoma, a bacterial infection that affects the eyes is a common infectious cause of blindness and is endemic in the Solomon Islands. Lack of personal hygiene particularly dirty face is the common risk factor while environmental health factors such as lack of water and poor sanitation are the risk factors responsible for the spread of the disease.
CIP is amongst four (4) other provinces, Guadalcanal, Choiseul and Western Provinces, have been identified as having higher prevalence of Trachoma.
As such the Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) program is rolling out this activity as part of its efforts against Trachoma.
A team of two from the National NTD program arrived at CIP on Monday and have teamed up with the province’s Trachoma focal point where they will be conducting the awareness and screening in the schools for operational convenience and where it will be easy to reach the targeted age group of children.
Upon arrival the team met with the province’s Education Authority and Head Teachers of the four schools. In the meeting the EA and Head Teachers were briefed that the visit is a continuation of previous visits that will continue to provide the support to those schools with an aim to change children’s practice on facial cleanliness
Today (Tuesday 14th March) the team will conduct meeting with teachers and continue with the awareness and screening in McMahon Primary School. On Wednesday Marvin Primary School, Thursday Silas Primary School and on Friday Halavo Primary School.
Preparations to roll out similar activities in the other priority provinces is underway this week which will be followed by deployment of personals from the national NTD unit to support the roll out.
Head of NTD unit, Mr. Oliver Sokana said supporting children to change behaviour in personal hygiene has a crosscutting benefit therefore seen as an important strategy for trachoma program. Allowing children to come forward to be screened for Trachoma is key part of the strategy to help us understand if the disease is reduced.
He also urged parents and guardians to encourage their children to practice constant face washing with clean water and soap after school or play. Unlike other diseases, signs and symptoms of trachoma are not easily seen. Checking the eyes is the only way to know if someone has trachoma.
The good news is that, the early it is detected, the higher chance that it can be cured with effective treatment regime.
The National NTD program will continue to work with the ministry of education through respective Education authorities to ensure information on trachoma is part of the school normal program.
Initiating integration with key stakeholders such as RWASH is the focus of the program in addressing trachoma elimination in Solomon Islands. This is a key strategy as water access and improved sanitation are key elements of achieving elimination of trachoma.
MHMS Press Release