Orbis’s Campaign Against Trachoma: A Fight for Vision and Equality

Last Updated on: 23rd November 2023, 10:01 am

Trachoma, an often-overlooked tropical disease, is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, with a marked impact on women more than men. London’s hospitality industry is uniting with Orbis in a spirited campaign to eliminate trachoma by 2030.

The #TrachomaToiletSelfie Challenge

Orbis, an international charity dedicated to ending avoidable blindness, is leveraging the unconventional yet powerful tool of toilet selfies this winter. Launched on World Toilet Day, this creative campaign partners with London’s hospitality sector to tackle trachoma, a disease leaving 1.9 million people globally blind or visually impaired.

The #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge invites Londoners to take a selfie with a purpose – inside the bathroom. Participating venues have adorned their restroom mirrors with special selfie stickers that serve to inspire action beyond reflection. Every selfie uploaded with the campaign hashtag on social media is a step towards raising awareness about trachoma.

Currently, over 115 million people worldwide are at risk of trachoma, despite its eradication in most industrialised countries over the last fifty years. Prevalent in areas with inadequate sanitation, trachoma can cause irreversible blindness in children and adults if untreated.

Women, as primary caregivers in many families, are more susceptible to trachoma. With children aged one to nine being the most affected group, women are regularly exposed to the infection. The scarcity of clean water, hygiene education, and proper toilets in low-and middle-income countries disproportionately puts women at risk of trachoma, perpetuating cycles of poverty by limiting access to education and employment opportunities. This situation urgently calls for action against the blinding injustice of trachoma, a disease already eradicated in many industrialised nations.

Earlier this year, Orbis distributed its 100 millionth antibiotic dose in Ethiopia to curb trachoma. However, the charity emphasises that the threat of trachoma will persist until access to clean water and toilets becomes a global reality.

This campaign connects bathroom selfies to the broader goal of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims for universal access to safe sanitation and hygiene by 2030. The World Health Organisation is also targeting global trachoma elimination by the same year.

By posting toilet selfies on social media, Londoners can assist Orbis in drawing attention to the 64 million people in Ethiopia at risk of blindness due to trachoma, a bacteria thriving in environments without proper toilet facilities. Orbis’s challenge, taking place in bathrooms where women and girls worldwide have limited access, seeks to raise awareness about their heightened risks.

Orbis, as an eye health organisation, is committed to addressing the devastating impact of limited sanitation and clean water on communities. This includes running hygiene and eye care school clubs, training community health workers to identify trachoma cases for treatment, and conducting surgeries. The charity collaborates with organisations that install clean water systems, hand and face washing facilities, and build essential toilets.

Kicking off on World Toilet Day, a day dedicated to addressing global sanitation challenges, Orbis’s #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge is a reminder that change can sometimes begin with a simple selfie.

London, it’s time to pout, pose, and post for a trachoma-free future!

Nominate a Friend!

The engagement doesn’t end with a single selfie. Participants are encouraged to nominate three friends to further spread the message, showcasing the power of social media in effecting change.

Picturing a World Without Trachoma

For Orbis, the mission is clear – to make trachoma history by 2030. What better way to reflect on this than where we often have a moment of reflection – in front of the bathroom mirror! Join us in the #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge and help bring Orbis’s vision for a future without trachoma to fruition. 

For more information on the campaign, Orbis’s work, and how you can participate, visit  https://gbr.orbis.org/en/trachoma-toilet-selfie

About Trachoma 

Trachoma is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the outer eye. Trachoma infection is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatous, which is easily spread by flies and through contact with an infected person, their clothes and bedding. The disease disappeared from most industrialised nations by the 1950s as housing improved, overcrowding lessened and indoor bathrooms became more common. However, it is still common in areas of the world where there is poor sanitation, a lack of clean water and overcrowded housing. Trachoma infection can be prevented and treated, but many repeated infections can lead to trichiasis. This is a painful condition where the eyelids turn inwards and the eyelashes rub against the surface of the eye. Without treatment, it can lead to irreversible blindness. Did you know that 55% of the world’s trachoma is found in Ethiopia? Help Orbis reach the World Health Organisation’s target to eliminate trachoma from Ethiopia by 2030 by taking part in the #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge.

Trachoma and Women: Some Data

  • Trachoma Affects Women More Than Men:  In Ethiopia, women account for 70% of those with the blinding form of trachoma. Women are often much more exposed to the disease due to their proximity to children who are the group most likely to have the trachoma infection. Studies suggest that the likelihood of women aged 35-40 developing blinding trachoma is four times more common than it is in men. 
  • Impact on Productivity: The consequences of trachoma extend beyond health, affecting women’s economic productivity. Blindness or visual impairment can hinder a person’s ability to work, care for their families, and engage in community activities, perpetuating the poverty cycle.
  • Impact on Education: In general, women in low-and middle-income countries have less access to education. Women with blindness or visual impairment face increased barriers to educational opportunities. This further reinforces the cycle of poverty, as education is a key factor in breaking economic disparities.
  • Social and Cultural Factors: In some communities, social and cultural factors may contribute to the higher prevalence of trachoma in women.  For example, less access to healthcare systems.
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