Ghana has become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday.

Experts credited community, regional, and international collaboration across the public and private sectors for stamping out the disease, which in 2000 threatened more than 2.8 million people in Ghana with blindness, or about 15 percent of the population, according to WHO figures.

“Through collaboration, determination, and sheer hard work, Ghana has eliminated a painful eye disease which has devastated the lives of millions of its most vulnerable people for years, despite being completely treatable and preventable,” said Simon Bush, director of neglected tropical diseases for Sightsavers. More than 20 NGOs have been working in partnership with the Ghanaian ministries of health and gender, as well as Pfizer, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Carter Center, and others to eliminate trachoma in the country.

“This achievement was only possible because a global alliance worked together — from government departments, international organizations like ourselves, and funders, pharmaceutical companies, and, of course, the communities themselves,” Bush said, adding that although Sightsavers and its partners would celebrate WHO’s announcement, “the fight does not end here. Many other countries are on the cusp of elimination and must continue to push for the elimination of trachoma, and other neglected tropical diseases, across the world.”

WHO estimates that 200 million people in 42 countries are currently at risk of trachoma, mostly in Africa. An infectious condition spread by flies and human touch, it is linked to poverty and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. If left untreated, eyelashes painfully scratch the surface of the eye and can cause irreversible blindness.

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