The fight against blinding trachoma in Ethiopia

August 2020

Your support is helping to bring us closer to eliminating trachoma, the world's leading cause of infectious avoidable blindness, in Ethiopia.

Trachoma is still a major cause of blindness and low vision in rural Ethiopia; with 37.5% of the world’s trachoma found there. Orbis has been working in rural areas of Ethiopia since 2002, partnering with the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), the Carter Center, Sightsavers, Fred Hollows Foundation and the Ethiopian government to implement the World Health Organisation's SAFE (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental change) strategy to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem.

In 2002, we were working in just three districts, administering around 400,000 doses of Zithromax, an antibiotic which prevents trachoma infection.

However thanks to the support of people like you, in the last three years (2016 - 2019), we were able to work in 15 out of 19 districts and administered over 11 million doses of antibiotics and eye ointments, using our "house to house" approach.

Without measures in place to prevent and treat trachoma in its early stages, repeated infection can lead to trachomatous trichiasis (TT), a painful condition in which the eyelids turn inwards, scratching the cornea each time a person blinks. Left untreated, TT can lead to permanent blindness.

Good hygiene practices, including the availability of clean water and children being educated about the importance of washing their hands and faces, are crucial to preventing the infection in the first place.

In the last 3 years, your support also enabled us to reach every single primary school in the 15 districts that we worked in. Whilst we were there, we educated the children on how good hygiene could protect themselves, and their families, from blinding trachoma.

Nearly 2000 teachers were trained at the same time to help reinforce these messages and ensure they were adopted long-term.

In all our trachoma elimination work, our SAFE strategy activities include:

• Surgery: we train nurses like Tsehay to operate on TT, which protects the patient’s sight and ends their pain

• Antibiotics: distribution of antibiotics, donated by Pfizer, to everyone in an affected community, through Mass Drug Administration (MDA)

• Facial Cleanliness: we work with water, sanitation and hygiene partners to promote access to water and sanitation, and raise the awareness amongst adults and children of the importance of clean faces for preventing infection

• Environmental Improvements: closely linked to the F component, we work with partners to promote access to water and sanitation

Using this strategy, Orbis has helped to reduce prevalence of trachoma significantly in the areas we work. Surveys to track the impact of our work show that, as of June 2019, 24 districts no longer need MDA and 16 districts no longer need surgical interventions.

However, despite significant progress, Ethiopia still carries the world’s highest burden of trachoma. As we move forward, we are committed to continuing interventions to eliminate trachoma, and use the learnings from our work to help hone and improve our efforts tackle this painful, blinding infection.

Help continue the fight against trachoma in Ethiopia

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