Celso Takashi Nakano on behalf of Associação Médicos da Floresta
To provide training and treatment for trachoma to aid indigenous groups living in remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon
Brazilian indigenous groups comprise approximately 500 thousand individuals, representing about 1% of the Brazilian population. Trachoma is a disease closely related to living standards and hygiene, and is found in underprivileged communities where there is little hope of rapid socioeconomic development. Close to 150 million persons worldwide suffer from active disease, while an additional 6 million are blind or at risk of visually disabling complications. The severity of trachoma – and thus the extent of its blinding potential – varies from community to community. Assessment is required to determine the presence or absence of trachoma as a public health problem and the nature of the interventions needed to be carried out in a given community in order to eliminate blinding trachoma. Since 1996, the World Health Organization has worked with a combination of interventions known by the acronym "SAFE" which stands for surgery for trichiasis, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement.
The aims of this project are to identify communities suffering from trachoma among indigenous groups living in remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon region, to provide proper training to local health professionals on trachoma screening, and to offer intervention on replicable educational programs on hygiene and face cleanliness as well as performing trichiasis surgery for those in need.
By providing proper training to local health professionals, an efficient and sustainable system of trachoma screening should develop in the specific communities. The main impact of treatment intervention and adequate orientation on face cleanliness would be the eradication of trachoma on the target population, ensured by periodical screening.
Project Update: At completion of this project, 15 local health professionals were trained to detect, diagnose, and treat trachoma in villages in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, where almost 30,000 indigenous people live. Roughly 10,000 inhabitants were examined over the course of the project, with approximately 30% testing positive for trachoma. As a result of these findings, government authorities have been mobilized to create plans to combat this situation, and UNICEF and Doctors without Borders have partnered with the project to provide adequate water supply systems to promote facial cleanliness and environment improvements. Other projects investigating the detection of trachoma have since been started in other indigenous regions in Brazil, such as the Xingu indigenous park.