How One Volunteer Saved Sight for Three Women in Ethiopia

Nearly two million people around the world are blind or have visual impairment due to trachoma, a painful bacterial eye infection. If left untreated, trachoma can lead to trichiasis, an even more excruciating and severe condition. Today, we’ll introduce you to three women in Ethiopia who are free from the pain and fear of trachoma—thanks to you!

Supporting Families in Ethiopia

Ten years ago, Amarech started to feel excruciating pain in both of her eyes. She noticed that opening and closing her eyes was becoming extremely uncomfortable. To reduce the pain, she was using a local eyelash-picking material called ‘worento’ for temporary relief.

But Amarech’s untreated eye condition was starting to have more serious long-term effects. She became hypersensitive towards light, couldn’t work, and stopped seeing friends and family.

As someone who had been very proud of her work—preparing a local drink called ‘Cheka’—Amarech was left feeling defeated and unable to provide the income her family needed. Her son pitched in to help by working longer days on the family farm. But his studies suffered as a result, and the family knew this couldn’t be a long-term solution.

Another woman in a nearby community, Beyenech, was also suffering from the same symptoms. Like Amarech, she also had to stop attending social gatherings and couldn’t do her daily work on the family farm. Beyenech had tried medications she received from nearby health facilities, but there was no improvement.

Beyenech and her husband after having her eye patch removed

Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases

Thanks to Orbis supporters like you, Amarech and ​​Beyenech were both visited by a case finder named Ato who had been trained by Orbis. Because many people are confined to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis has been conducting door-to-door visits to ensure people who need eye care can still receive it.

During the visits to the homes of Amarech and Beyenech, Ato saw that both women were suffering from trichiasis, caused by repeat trachoma infections. Ato referred each of them to a nearby health center where they could receive the surgery they needed. Both women were at risk of losing their sight altogether if they didn’t receive treatment fast.

Trachoma is one of those most prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and a major focus of Orbis ’s work around the globe, particularly in rural Ethiopia, where the condition persists and eye care can be difficult to access. With your continued support, our ultimate goal is to eliminate this leading cause of blindness around the world.

Repeat trachoma infections can lead to trichiasis, which occurs when the upper eyelid turns inward and the eyelashes scrape against the eye, resulting in excruciating pain and permanent scarring of the front of the eye (the cornea). If left untreated, trachomatous trichiasis will lead to blindness in most cases.

Following Ato’s advice, Amarech and Beyenech received bilateral surgery on their upper eyelids, and the procedures were very successful. Both women are thrilled to be able to see clearly again. Now, they are able to work, provide for their families, and socialize free of fear and pain!

Amarech happily back to work after her surgery


Now my eyes are not pour­ing out tears. I am ful­ly recov­ered from my ill­ness and per­form­ing rou­tine activ­i­ties like the rest of my friends. I extend my many thanks to Orbis [for the] invalu­able sup­port and ser­vice of help­ing me from the seri­ous eye prob­lem I have been strug­gling with.”

Saving Silele's Sight

Like Amarech and Beyenech, Silele's vision had been affected by trachoma for years, causing her excruciating pain. During Orbis’s most recent visit in her community, Silele received an antibiotic called Zithromax, which helps prevent trachoma.

When handed the medication, however, Silele told the Orbis team that her eyes were already hurting badly. They examined her and diagnosed her with trichiasis, which can only be treated by surgery.

Silele received medicine during our mass drug administration.

Silele told us: “My eye is causing me so much pain. I cannot remember when exactly it started. I have had several eyelashes [removed] to get some relief."

Thanks to our supporters, Orbis outreach workers are trained to look for signs of trichiasis so we can provide treatment for this extremely painful condition. Had it not been for the team doing their round of home visits due to COVID-19, Silele and her eye condition may have never been treated properly, leading to permanent blindness.

An Orbis-trained health worker in Ethiopia measures out doses of sight-saving Zithromax.

Treating Trachoma

Trachoma was eliminated in most industrialized countries by the 1950s, but unfortunately still persists in areas of the world where there is poor sanitation and lack of clean water. The condition also affects more women than men, as traditional gender roles mean that women are still more likely to have a larger share of domestic work and child-rearing responsibilities.

We'd like to say a special thanks to our partners, supporters, and volunteers on the ground in Ethiopia who have been instrumental in the fight against trachoma.

Thanks to you, we have been able to identify and treat these agonizing conditions so that people around the world are able to thrive at work, school, home, and in their communities. Together, we are ensuring that millions of people can have brighter futures!

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