500 Millionth Zithromax Dose Donation Celebration

Monday, November 16, 2015
Remarks by U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Ethiopia Peter Vrooman
U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Ethiopia Peter Vrooman gives a keynote speech
U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Ethiopia Peter Vrooman gives a keynote speech to an audience estimated at 10,000 at an event in to announce the donation of the 500 millionth dose of Zithromax® in Woliso,
Robert Sauers, USAID Ethiopia


Akkam bultannii, indemen aderachu and good morning! It is an honor to be here and speak at this momentous global event to celebrate the 500 millionth Zithromax donation.

The global goal of eliminating trachoma by 2020 is a major piece in ending preventable blindness and suffering by millions throughout the world. Recently, we have seen significant progress toward the goal. From 2011 to 2013, the number of people at risk of developing Trachoma has been reduced from 314 million to 229 million. Host governments in endemic countries, donors, the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies, and others have shown a deep commitment to ending the neglect and eliminating trachoma.

However, despite the encouraging results and tremendous efforts from stakeholders, the disease is still the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide with 232 million people at risk in fifty-one endemic countries. Fifty percent of the global burden is found in five endemic countries—India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Guinea and Sudan—and Ethiopia has the highest burden in the world with 30 percent of the sub-Saharan burden.

An estimated 2.2 million people are visually impaired by trachoma, of whom 1.2 million are irreversibly blind. Trachoma can destroy the economic well-being of entire communities, keeping families shackled within a cycle of poverty as the disease and its long-term effects pass from one generation to the next. Blindness from trachoma strikes adults in their prime years, hindering their ability to care for themselves and their families.

Women, traditionally the caretakers of the home, are twice as likely as men to have the late stages of trachoma. When a woman can no longer perform vital activities for her household, an older daughter is often removed from school to assume her mother’s duties, thus losing her opportunity for a formal education.

The good news is that blinding trachoma can be eliminated by implementing a comprehensive public health approach that combines treatment with prevention.

As part of the U.S. Government’s commitment to see a world free of preventable diseases, USAID developed a neglected tropical disease program and targets the control and/or elimination of several diseases, including trachoma. The USAID program is the largest public private collaboration in the agency’s 50-year history and supported the delivery of 8.8 billion dollars’ worth of donated medicines to populations in need, representing one of the most cost-effective and innovative partnerships in global health.

USAID has supported the delivery of Zithromax, donated by Pfizer, in trachoma-endemic countries around the world. These trachoma treatments have reached more than 142 million people in endemic countries since 2007. As a result of USAID’s support for trachoma elimination efforts, 45.4 million people living in areas supported by USAID no longer require treatment for trachoma.

I would like to thank Pfizer for the tremendous commitment in donating the 500 million doses of Zithromax. This generous contribution has improved the ability of USAID to mitigate neglected tropical diseases.

On behalf of the U.S. Government, I would also like to thank the Ministry of Health, International Trachoma Initiative and the committee that organized this colorful event today. It has been a privilege to be here and participate in the momentous milestone.

As you may know, the U.S. Peace Corps works under an agreement with the Ministry of Health to provide community health support at the woreda and kebele level in the regions of Oromia, Tigray, Amhara and SNNP. Its volunteers live and work within communities for two years, which enables a continuity of support to benefit long-term change in water sanitation and hygiene, HIV prevention care and support, and maternal and newborn health. I am very pleased to announce today that the Peace Corps will contribute to the efforts of the Ministry of Health in combatting trachoma by partnering with RTI and The Carter Center to place volunteers in communities of high prevalence and become part of the solution to this health crisis.

In closing, I want to remind you of what President Obama said at the UN General Assembly in New York less than two months ago. He said, “Let the skeptics and cynics know development works. Investing in public health works. We can break the cycle of poverty. People and nations can rise into prosperity. Despite the cruelties of our world and the ravages of disease, millions of lives can be saved if we are focused, and if we work together.”

Looking ahead, the U.S. Government will continue to work with others to support endemic countries in this global endeavor.

Through strong partnership and hard work, we will eliminate trachoma by 2020!

Galatoma, amasegenalehu, and thank you very much.

See also

Additional photos [Flickr]

USAID Ethiopia Global Health

Pfizer Press Release

Tombe Anchebe Kebele, Woliso, Oromia Region, Ethiopia
Issuing Country