A woman smiling at the camera.

Trachoma surgery has given me independence

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Find out how your support can help end this devastating disease for people like Fikir.

Fikir is a high school biology teacher in Gurage Zone, Ethiopia. She is one of millions of people who remain at risk of going blind from trachoma in Ethiopia.

She was first infected with trachoma at a young age. However, it was only at university she realised she was experiencing the advanced symptoms of the disease, trachomatous trichiasis (TT), after her friend recognised the painful symptoms. This stage of trachoma causes eyelashes to turn inwards and scrape the eye, leaving many people to pull out their own eyelashes to stop the immense pain.

“My first experience of getting my eyelashes pulled out was at university. A friend helped me do it. For years she had done the same for her mother.”

The condition made Fikir’s day to day life very difficult, and sometimes she struggled to carry out her teaching role due to the pain.

"The disease gives me tearing and redness as well as pain, making it difficult to teach in the class. I frequently pull out my eyelashes to relieve myself from the pain."

A woman sitting in a health centre waiting room with other women.

Fikir lives in Ethiopia and was first diagnosed with blinding trachoma at a young age.

Eliminating Trachoma for Future Generations

Some of Fikir’s students have also had trachoma infections. Sadly, a child in the tenth grade has even dropped out of school due to severe pain from his trachoma infection, threatening his chance of getting an education and route of our poverty.

Fikir hopes that he gets some treatment and relief from a mass drug administration, which is when trachoma-preventing antibiotics are given to all members of the local community.

A mother of two boys, Fikir has noticed that her sons are also showing signs of trachoma infection, such as eye redness and discharge. She fears for their health, as they too need vital antibiotics to stop their pain and treat their infection.

Saving Fikir’s Sight

Sadly Fikir’s fears are a reality for far too many people around the world. Currently, nearly two million people globally live with sight loss of blindness due to trachoma.

That’s why it’s critical we meet the World Health Organisation’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2030. Working with our partners, Orbis have already delivered over 100 million doses of antibiotics to stop the spread of trachoma.

Reaching the 2030 goal will mean no one will have to worry about trachoma anymore, and more people across the world will be able to go to school, work and participate in the local community.

Together with our partners we have trained health workers at Worsherbe Health Centre, Gurage Zone. The team there were able to perform sight-saving eyelid surgery on Fikir.

She shared her hopes for the future with us afterwards, saying, "After my stitches are removed, I am looking forward to being independent once again and seeing the bright light. I don't want to see anyone suffer from this pain ever again, so I will be happy to see trachoma gone."

A woman having stiches removed from her eye after receiving surgery.

Fikir having her stitches removed at Worsherbe Health Centre after having surgery.

Help Orbis Make Trachoma History

Fikir’s surgery would not have been possible without our supporters. But to eliminate trachoma for good by 2030, we need to do much more.

55% of people at risk from trachoma now live in Ethiopia. Since we began our fight against trachoma in Southern Ethiopia 20 years ago, we have helped over seven million to no longer require antibiotics due to eliminating trachoma in their local areas.

With your help we can eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia for good and end avoidable blindness for all.


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