World Neglected Tropical Disease Day 2021

Saturday, January 30, 2021 is World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day, an occasion to recognize the devastating impact that these often very preventable diseases have on our global community.

For Orbis, this is an opportunity to highlight our ongoing battle against blinding trachoma in Ethiopia. Trachoma is an infectious eye disease, and one of the leading causes of blindness globally. When left untreated, it can develop into trichiasis – a painful condition where the eyelids turn inwards and the eyelashes rub against the surface of the eye, leading to irreversible blindness. Like many other NTDs, trachoma is entirely preventable. In fact, it was eradicated in most industrialized nations by the 1950s, but in poverty-stricken countries like Ethiopia, it remains a continued crisis.

For Orbis Canada’s CEO, Lisa McKeen, World NTD Day is a reminder of the fact that this disease, like many of the world’s neglected tropical diseases, can be stopped – and that we have the tools to do it. “Trachoma persists in countries like Ethiopia because the factors that lead to its spread are prevalent: poverty, crowded households, limited access to clean water, inadequate sanitation, and lack of community awareness about the disease. This, along with access to the antibiotics needed to treat trachoma, are problems we can help with,” she says.

Orbis teams are fighting trachoma in Ethiopia

Orbis-trained health workers distribute antibiotics, as part of our recent mass drug administration, to a mother and daughter in southern Ethiopia.

In December of 2020, Orbis launched a large-scale mass drug administration program to distribute antibiotics to 11 million people in 117 districts in the southern regions of Ethiopia – a process made more complex by the COVID-19 crisis. However, because of COVID, the messages about the importance of good hygiene practices to prevent trachoma that are included with antibiotic distribution came with yet another purpose.

Across Canada, organizations will be recognizing this work and other programs that support the control and elimination of NTDs on January 30th. Amy Davis, who is the Advocacy and Policy Officer for the Canadian Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, explains that the day brings needed awareness. “It’s a really important day for us to look back and reflect on a lot of the progress that's been made, especially over the last 10 years,” she says, noting that the World Health Organization is launching a new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases just a few days before World NTD Day. “We're using this opportunity to look towards the future and this new roadmap and new goals and activities that people are going to undertake to try and beat these diseases by 2030.”

Like McKeen, Davis is also keenly aware that NTDs like trachoma are often completely preventable by means that are often taken for granted by those in developed nations. “Sometimes really basic health promotion and health prevention activities, like the ability to access clean water and sanitation, and the ability to go see a doctor or a health professional when you need to, we take a lot of those for granted,” she says.

On World NTD Day, Orbis and our partners in the Canadian Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases are working together to raise awareness that Canadians are a part of the global community that is fighting these diseases. We are asking everyone to raise their voices and support a Canadian development policy framework that includes NTDs. You can learn more about how you can help on the World NTD Day website.

End Trachoma Now.

Millions are losing their sight and suffering unnecessarily from Trachoma. We can end this in our lifetime. Join our campaign and lets End Trachoma Now.

Close the modal
Sorry there was an error.
Try again