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Summary Community control of trachoma as a blinding disease is based on the SAFE strategy of Surgery, Antibiotic therapy, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement. Surgery and antibiotic therapy currently dominate most programmes. Blindness from trachoma results from frequent infections repeated over many years, so ultimate success requires the reduction of transmission. This is only likely to be sustainable through the F and E components of SAFE. Environmental improvement with access to water, enhanced hygiene and better sanitation reduces trachoma transmission and the blinding sequelae eventually disappear. Transmission routes and factors that cause this are not known and consequently no single specific tool for F and E is in place. Evidence from intervention studies shows that the promotion of face-washing gave modest gains for intense effort and a pilot study showed that trachoma transmission was reduced in the absence of eye-seeking flies. Other studies have shown that latrines and improved access to water are associated with a lower prevalence of active trachoma. There is likely to be a long-term beneficial effect of a combination of improved water supplies, provision of latrines, facial hygiene promotion through established infrastructure and control of eye-seeking flies. Each of these interventions offers additional public health and other benefits in its own right. Further research on the routes of transmission, the role of hygiene and means of sustainable fly control should be a priority.