MANILA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that Cambodia and Laos have eliminated trachoma, an ancient blinding disease.
In a news statement, Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, congratulated the two Southeast Asian countries for successfully eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.
Shin called trachoma "a disease of poverty," adding that communities that do not have good access to safe water and sanitation are the hardest hit.
"But it is possible to tackle this public health problem, as Cambodia and Laos have done, by making the right investments to protect peoples' health," Shin said in a statement.
Trachoma has been a health problem in Cambodia since the 1990s and in Laos since the 1970s.
Cambodia and Laos are the first countries in the WHO Western Pacific region to be validated as having achieved elimination of trachoma as a public health problem, WHO said.
Trachoma, an eye disease caused by infection with Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria, is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, according to a WHO statement.
It said infection is spread through contact with discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected person, particularly young children.
It is spread by flies which have been in contact with the eyes and noses of infected people, the statement read. "Transmission of the infection is closely linked with poor sanitation and hygiene," it said.