Ending trachoma in Ethiopia | Orbis

Ending trachoma in Ethiopia

Kelifa is a Mass Drug Administration Supervisor based in Ethiopia. He does amazing work by distributing antibiotics that stop the spread of trachoma, an infection that causes agonising pain and blindness if not treated in time.

Before the pandemic, this would be done at mass gatherings but when coronavirus restrictions meant this wasn't possible, Kelifa and the team quickly adapted by going door-to-door to make sure they reached everybody. As the team also advocate the importance of washing faces and hands to stop the spread of trachoma, they were also well placed to share messages about how to prevent coronavirus from spreading. We spoke to Kelifa to find out more about this sight-saving work:

1. How is this project helping to eliminate trachoma?

As we distribute antibiotics, we are also screening people for trachoma. if we encounter people with trachoma, we treat them, and refer those with advanced trachoma to the nearest health centre. We also provide people with health education, that they should wash 3 to 5 times a day with soap and water.

2. Tell us how the pandemic is affecting the project

I have participated (in antibiotic distribution) several times. This year is different because it is tiring as it is being administered home-to-home because of Covid.

Another difference is we ask people to wear pieces of cloth to cover their mouth and nose if they do not have masks to wear. It all takes a lot of extra time.

3. How is the community responding to the awareness work?

The community already knows the benefit of the medicine because it has been distributed in previous rounds. But medicine alone cannot eliminate trachoma - we have to work on hygiene as well. Trachoma cases have reduced significantly in recent years. The community has good awareness. Patients who have contracted trachoma get surgery for free at the health centres and they receive hygiene information from Health Extension Workers.

I want to express my gratitude to Orbis for all the work it does on sanitation work, treating eye patients, distributing medicine, and training professionals who will perform surgery.


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