Rotary Backs Trachoma Drive


By Tony Thomas, Rotary Club of Central Melbourne

Rotary’s 2017-18 International President, Australia’s Ian Riseley, wants a trachoma-free Australia by 2021, Rotary’s 100th year in Australia.

Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that can be prevented with good hygiene practices. It is still present in remote Aboriginal communities and can lead to permanent blindness. Australia is the world’s only developed country with trachoma. The World Health Organisation has a global goal to eliminate trachoma by 2020.

With surgery and antibiotics, trachoma rates in affected communities have been reduced substantially. The original 200 ‘hot-spots’ have dwindled to around 50, mainly in central Australia. More work is still required to ensure that hygiene practices and the community environments are improved to completely eliminate the disease. Prevention is now the focus.

Melbourne Rotary Club’s Rob McGuirk and Albert Park’s Kerry Kornhauser have together established a not-for-profit company (insert name of it?)  to run the project. It can accept tax-deductible donations. Funds have been raised to enable the engagement of a project manager, Rotary Foundation Scholar and qualified public health worker, Lien Trinh, over the next three years.

Past District Governor Dr Murray Verso has also joined the team, adding his medical experience and understanding.

Rotary International Zone 8 Director Noel Trevaskis is asking all Districts to support the project which will cut the spread of trachoma. This spread occurs by hands, clothing, shared towels, bedding, and from flies which have contacted runny eyes or noses.

Some of the projects clubs can support include:

  • funding a communal washing machines or facilities
  • subsidising hygiene kits of towels, soaps, and toothbrushes
  • sponsoring the operations of remote community swimming pools to help keep kids clean and active

Rob, Kerry and the team are working with other NGO’s and corporates to create the projects and to enable the delivery of products and services to affected communities.

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