November 26, 2012, 10:11 am
By Aisha Stewart
Stewart was a summer 2012 graduate assistant for the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program. She traveled to Ethiopia to help survey families about the Center’s trachoma prevention activities in partnership with the local communities.
We met 13-year-old Azmera Yogzaw in the community of Chals, Ethiopia during a trachoma program impact assessment. Chals is a small community of about 900 residents located in the West Gojam zone in the Amhara Region, over an hour walk from a main road. Azmera and her family were the first family in the community to be surveyed and eagerly greeted the survey team. During the impact assessment, survey teams visited 7,324 households, like Azmera’s, in 209 clusters over four weeks. The teams interviewed household representatives, screened family members for trachoma, and conducted a school-aged child assessment in half of the clusters. Azmera’s mother answered questions about her household, and Azmera agreed to participate in the school-aged child assessment. Azmera also shared her experience with trachoma control efforts, which took place at her school, a 30-minute walk away.
What did the health extension worker teach you about trachoma?
I like to study science and math. I especially like it when the health worker comes because we learn about ways to have good health. I always tell my family what I learned about good health at school, too. I learned that trachoma was an eye disease that could cause blindness. To prevent trachoma, the health worker told us that it’s important to wash your face every day. I make sure to wash my face at least once each day, and make sure that my three younger brothers and sisters do, too.
Where does your family collect water for drinking, cooking, and washing?
I’m responsible for collecting water for my family. Even though it is a farther walk, I always go to a protected water source to collect our water. It takes a little longer to get there, but I always want to make sure there is enough safe water for everyone in my family to bathe and wash their clothes.
Can you tell us what you learned about latrines in school?
In school, my teacher and our health worker taught us we should always use a latrine. This helps to keep our village clean and keeps flies away. The health worker encourages our community to build their own latrines, and she shows people how to do it. Lots of families have built latrines because the health worker showed them latrines can keep away diseases like trachoma.
To further prevent the spread of trachoma, Azmera and her family have taken several rounds of the antibiotic Zithromax® (donated by Pfizer Inc), distributed by teams of Carter Center-supported volunteers during the annual MalTra Week campaign. MalTra is an integrated intervention to address malaria and trachoma, both of which are endemic in the Amhara Region where Azmera lives.
“My family and I all have taken tablets for trachoma many times. At school, we learn that it’s important to take the tablets every year. I’m glad that my family gets medicine. And, I’m glad that I get to learn about health topics at school so my family and I can stay healthy,” she said.