Trachoma Takes Unequal Toll on Women In Blinding Injustice

Trachoma is casting a shadow over millions of lives as the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, The neglected tropical disease affects women more than men. In a reflective campaign to wipe out trachoma by 2030, hospitality venues across London are joining hands with Orbis.

The #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge 

Orbis, an international eye care charity working to end avoidable blindness around the world, is embracing the power of a toilet selfie this winter. In a novel campaign launched on World Toilet Day, the charity is partnering with London hospitality businesses to fight trachoma, a disease that has left 1.9 million people blind or visually impaired around the world.

The #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge is a unique initiative inviting Londoners to snap a selfie with a purpose – in the loo. Participating locations are decking out their bathroom mirrors with selfie stickers that do more than just reflect – they inspire action. Each selfie shared with the campaign hashtag on social media aims to raise awareness about trachoma. 

Worldwide, over 115 million people are at risk of trachoma, despite the condition largely disappearing in most industrialised nations over half a century ago. The disease thrives in areas of poor sanitation, robbing children and adults of their sight if left untreated. 

Women are at a higher risk of contracting trachoma due to being the main caregivers in many homes. Children aged one to nine are the most commonly infected group, and so women are exposed to infection more regularly. A lack of access to clean water, hygiene education and adequate toilets in low-and middle-income countries puts more women at risk of trachoma than men, and in turn traps children and families in poverty as they lose access to education and employment. This cycle underscores the urgent need for attention and action to break free from the blinding injustice of trachoma – a disease which has long since been wiped out in many industrialised nations.

Earlier this year, Orbis distributed their 100 millionth dose of antibiotics to stop and slow the spread of trachoma in Ethiopia. But the charity wants to raise awareness that the condition will continue to threaten the sight of millions until we live in a world where clean water and toilets are available for all, not seen as a luxury. 

This campaign links toilet selfies to the bigger picture – that of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which envisions safe sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030. The World Health Organisation aims for global trachoma elimination in the same year.  

With every toilet selfie posted on social media, Londoners can help Orbis draw attention to the 64 million people at risk of losing their sight in Ethiopia alone, because of bacteria that thrives in areas without access to toilets. Orbis’s challenge, taking place in bathrooms which women and girls have a disproportionate access to worldwide, aims to raise awareness of the increased risks they face. 

As an eye health organisation, Orbis’s work focuses on the devastating impact that limited access to sanitation and clean water can have on communities. This includes working with local partners to run school clubs on hygiene and eye care, training community-level health workers to find those with the condition and refer them for treatment and delivering surgeries. The charity also works alongside organisations who install pumps for clean water and hand and face washing, and who build vital toilets.  

Launching on World Toilet Day, a day earmarked to confront global sanitation challenges, Orbis’s #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge is reminding us that sometimes, change can start with something as simple as a selfie. 

So, London, get ready to pout, pose, and post to tackle trachoma!

Nominate a Friend! 

The fun doesn’t end with a click. Participants are encouraged to tag and nominate three friends to spread the message further. It’s a challenge that reflects not just faces but the power social media has to make a difference. 

Picturing a World Without Trachoma 

For Orbis, the mission is clear – to make trachoma history by 2030. What better way to reflect on this than where we often have a moment of reflection – in front of the bathroom mirror! Join us in the #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge and help bring Orbis’s vision for a future without trachoma to fruition. 

For more information on the campaign, Orbis’s work, and how you can participate, visit 

About Trachoma 

Trachoma is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the outer eye. Trachoma infection is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatous, which is easily spread by flies and through contact with an infected person, their clothes and bedding. The disease disappeared from most industrialised nations by the 1950s as housing improved, overcrowding lessened and indoor bathrooms became more common. However, it is still common in areas of the world where there is poor sanitation, a lack of clean water and overcrowded housing. Trachoma infection can be prevented and treated, but many repeated infections can lead to trichiasis. This is a painful condition where the eyelids turn inwards and the eyelashes rub against the surface of the eye. Without treatment, it can lead to irreversible blindness. Did you know that 55% of the world’s trachoma is found in Ethiopia? Help Orbis reach the World Health Organisation’s target to eliminate trachoma from Ethiopia by 2030 by taking part in the #TrachomaToiletSelfie challenge.

Trachoma and Women: Some Data

  • Trachoma Affects Women More Than Men:  In Ethiopia, women account for 70% of those with the blinding form of trachoma. Women are often much more exposed to the disease due to their proximity to children who are the group most likely to have the trachoma infection. Studies suggest that the likelihood of women aged 35-40 developing blinding trachoma is four times more common than it is in men. 
  • Impact on Productivity: The consequences of trachoma extend beyond health, affecting women’s economic productivity. Blindness or visual impairment can hinder a person’s ability to work, care for their families, and engage in community activities, perpetuating the poverty cycle.
  • Impact on Education: In general, women in low-and middle-income countries have less access to education. Women with blindness or visual impairment face increased barriers to educational opportunities. This further reinforces the cycle of poverty, as education is a key factor in breaking economic disparities.
  • Social and Cultural Factors: In some communities, social and cultural factors may contribute to the higher prevalence of trachoma in women.  For example, less access to healthcare systems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *