Girl in Ethiopia stands in front of her home

“I fear Medhanit will become blind unless her problem is resolved”

Medhanit’s childhood is on hold because of trachoma. The highly infectious eye disease stops her from going to school, playing with her friends, and keeps her indoors away from the sun. Her mother, Genet, watches her daughter with worry:

Medhanit’s Story

“When Medhanit has trachoma, she feels an irritation in her eyes which makes them itch. Her eyes become red and start weeping. She struggles with bright light and prefers to keep her eyes closed.

“She spends less time with her friends and stays indoors.”

Across Ethiopia, 65 million people are at risk of trachoma, and in some areas, as many as 1 in 5 children have an active trachoma infection. If left untreated trachoma can have devastating consequences. Repeated trachoma infections can cause the eyelashes to turn inwards and rub against the surface of the eye. This causes immense pain and damages the cornea, leading to permanent blindness.

The Impact of Repeat Infections

Medhanit has had several trachoma infections before and each time Genet has to take time away from work to try to find help.

“I will go to the pharmacy or the health centre to try to get medication. But the medicine is expensive, and taking time off work makes things difficult financially.

“The medicine helps but the trachoma always comes back again.”

Genet and Medhanit live in a village in the Sidama region of Southern Ethiopia. Genet fears that Medhanit could face the same fate as older members of the community who have been blinded by trachoma.

They remain at home. They never go out. Their life is terrible. Unless Medhanit’s problem is resolved I fear she will also become blind.

A mother and her two daughters sit inside their home

Medhanit at home with her mum, Genet, and her sister, Bethlehem

Our Work to Eliminate Trachoma

For 25 years Orbis, alongside our local partners and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, has been working towards the World Health Organization (WHO) goal to eliminate trachoma by 2030.

Delivering antibiotics repeatedly to entire communities is an integral part of this strategy. This public health intervention is known as a mass drug administration. It not only offers a short-term cure to children with trachoma, but it also stops the spread to other children and families.

When a mass drug administration took place in Medhanit’s village doses of the antibiotics azithromycin are given to Medhanit and her family, as well as hundreds of other children and adults.

“Since the treatment programme started in our village there are many people who have said they have seen an improvement in their health and their eyes. I am hopeful for my daughter too.

A girl taking medicine at a trachoma Mass Drug Administration in Ethiopia

Medhanit takes a dose of antibiotics azithromycin at a mass drug administration in her village

We Can’t Do This Without You

Until trachoma is eliminated millions of children like Medhanit are still at risk of repeated trachoma infections and permanent blindness as an adult. But together we can save sight and fight against this devastating disease. We won’t stop until trachoma is eliminated in Ethiopia for good.

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