By ERWIN CHLANDA
Rotary, which has been instrumental in all but eradicating polio world-wide, now is pledged to help eradicate trachoma in Australia by 2020.
“We’re doing this with Aboriginal people, not for Aboriginal people,” says Lien Trinh, project manager of EndTrachoma by 2020.
“We have had an incredible level of support from the Rotary Districts of Australia.
“Almost all districts have a district champion who meet with us each month on Zoom to provide input into the project, and receive updates, which they then go back to their districts to disseminate.
“Our project, at this time, has philanthropic funding to run until the end of 2020.
“We work in collaboration with the networks of Rotary, as well as all stakeholders in the field of trachoma elimination, and major companies such as Bunnings and Sea to Summit, to deliver the tools and infrastructure needed to improve facial cleanliness and the environment,” says Ms Trinh.
“We visited them this week for a community health day (photo above, right) and opening of the laundry.
“We work with communities, to identify what their capacity allows and how they would like to improve hygiene and sanitation in their communities.”
In Central Australia other communal laundries are being planned for Titjikala, Mutitjulu, Areyonga and Papunya.
The organisation’s online message is blunt and urgent: “Australia is the world’s last developed country where trachoma still exists. It is the most common infectious cause of blindness.
“It will strike children suffering 150 to 200 episodes of infection in the first eight or 10 years of life – kids who are infected two or three times a month.
“It’s no longer acceptable for kids to walk around with dirty faces.
“With every kid’s face clean, trachoma would disappear by the end of the year.”
Much of it is basic stuff: Keep faces clean, not sharing face-washers, having two mirrors in each house, one at the kids’ level, learning to make soap (at right – “the women loved it”), manual washing machines (above) that are mobile, have few moving parts, use less water, less electricity, funding hygiene kits, making sure a communal pool is functional.
ABOVE: First-world Australia is in the company of third world countries when it comes to the scourge of trachoma. IMAGES from the organisation’s website.