WHO validates Benin and Mali for eliminating trachoma as public health problem


The countries join 15 other nations that have eliminated the disease.

A closeup of a brown eye with a series of binary numbers in the background. Image credit: © Rohane/Adobe Stock

Benin and Mali have both eliminated a leading infectious cause of blindness. Image credit: © Rohane/Adobe Stock

Following a years-long effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) and public health partners, Benin and Mali have both eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. Globally, trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness. In a statement1, WHO committed to eliminating trachoma in 23 countries where it remains endemic.

To date, 15 other countries have been validated by WHO for meeting the same milestone. Most recently, Malawi (September 2022) and Togo (May 2022) also received WHO validation for achieving trachoma elimination. Cambodia, China, the Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Vanuatu have also received validation.

Both Benin and Mali implemented the SAFE strategy. According to WHO, this protocol consists of:

  • surgery to treat late trachoma complications;
  • antibiotics to clear infection;
  • facial cleanliness; and
  • environmental improvement, particularly improving access to water and sanitation, to reduce transmission.

The SAFE strategy was integrated along with similar interventions for other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Trachoma is the first NTD to be eliminated in Mali. In Benin, public health efforts have eliminated two other NTDs – dracunculiasis (in 2009) and gambiense human African trypanosomiasis (in 2021).

In a statement, Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, director of the WHO Global NTD Programme, commended the nations’ “impressive public health achievements. “Benin and Mali demonstrate how strong political will, cross-sector integration, surveillance and community engagement can work in concert to achieve disease elimination,” Socé said.

According to WHO, 105 million people in the WHO African Region live in at-risk areas. Trachoma is caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The disease is easily transmissible, especially in environments with inadequate access to water and effective sanitation. In 1996, WHO set an initial benchmark for the global elimination of trachoma by 2020. An updated roadmap now projects 2030 as the target date for global trachoma elimination.


1. WHO congratulates Benin and Mali for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem. News release. World Health Organization; May 16, 2023. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.who.int/news/item/16-05-2023-who-congratulates-benin-and-mali-for-eliminating-trachoma-as-a-public-health-problem
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