Sightsavers treats nearly 30 million for eye diseases in 2011

But charity pledges to help millions more and build on successes announced in Annual Review

Development organisation Sightsavers treated almost 30 million people suffering from eye diseases in some of the poorest countries in the world last year, according to results published in its Annual Review.

The organisation distributed antibiotics to people suffering from trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye, to over 4.6 million people and operated on over 18,000 cases of advanced trachoma across Africa. It also treated over 24 million people suffering from river blindness, which like trachoma is a blinding Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD).

But Sightsavers says it plans to eliminate trachoma from 24 countries by distributing 252 million doses of antibiotics from 2012 to 2015 – per year that will almost double the amount distributed in 2011. It has also pledged to wipe out river blindness in 14 countries by 2021 using the treatment Mectizan® (ivermectin*), which is donated for mass distribution by global pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc. (known as MSD in the UK).

Chief Executive for Sightsavers Caroline Harper said: “The results of our activity in 2011 shows the strategy which underpins our mission to eliminate avoidable blindness is working, but there is still more to be done. Every 15 minutes someone in the world loses their sight to trachoma and the World Health Organization estimates that 37 million people are already infected by river blindness.

“We’re confident that by focusing on getting treatments out to the people who need it, through our established volunteer distribution routes, we can not only wipe out trachoma and river blindness completely in some areas, but impact other NTDs too.”

Sightsavers uses local volunteers to distribute drugs such as Mectizan®, and trained over 146,000 people in villages across Africa to perform this role in 2011. These volunteers are also helping to tackle other NTDs such as lymphatic filariasis, soil transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis.

Other key results in the Annual Review show:

  • Sightsavers trained 4,390 teachers in skills to include children who are blind or partially blind in their lessons – over 1,600 more than in 2010.
  • Sightsavers supported 3,747 social workers on courses to help people living with blindness and other disabilities in 2011. This was almost six times the number helped in 2010 (630).
  • Sightsavers trained 59,743 health, education and social work professionals in eye health in 2011 – over 6,500 more than in 2010.

The full results of the Annual Review can be viewed at

For further press information please contact the Sightsavers media team on 01444 446754, For media enquiries out of hours, please call 07775 928253. Case studies related to the results of the Annual Review are available on request.



*’Mectizan’® (ivermectin) is not licensed for use in the UK.

About Sightsavers:

1.     Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired.

2.     There are 39 million blind people in the world; 80% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.

3.     In 2011, Sightsavers treated 4,644,847 people with antibiotics for trachoma and 18,295 people received operations for trachoma. Mectizan® was distributed to 24,387,260 people. The sum of these figures is 29,050,402.

4.     For more information about trachoma, visit

5.     For more information about river blindness visit

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