Our Work in Ethiopia | Orbis
Patient Aylito, who has a cataract, looks off to the side

Our Work in Ethiopia

Four million people in Ethiopia are blind or visually impaired. Cataracts are the leading cause, affecting some 1.7 million people. The country also accounts for 30% of trachoma in sub-Saharan African countries, or 1.2 million people. With only 130 ophthalmologists in the country, there is a severe shortage of eye health professionals.

Celebrating 20 years of saving sight in Ethiopia

The Problem

When we started working in Ethiopia in 1998 the population was around 65 million. Two decades later it has nearly doubled to 107 million. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 1.6 million or 1.6% of the Ethiopian population is blind and 3.8 million or 3.7% live with low vision. This falls significantly above the world average of 1.2% and 3.4% respectively.

Success in Ethiopia

In 1998 the country had just 54 ophthalmologists, 42 of whom practised in Addis Ababa (the capital city). There are now 140 ophthalmologists.

We have played a leading role in developing 266 primary eye care units, 10 secondary eye care units, 3 paediatric eye care centres and 6 optical workshops.

We've delivered more than 3 million eye screenings and examinations and nearly 25 million medical treatments including around 230,000 surgeries for adults and 9,000 for children.

In 2020 alone, we delivered:

With your continued support, we can implement a model for comprehensive rural eye care that addresses critical gaps through capacity building, healthcare technology and advocacy. We will train more community health care workers in all aspects of eye care, from awareness of services, identification, diagnosis, referral and treatment.

We will look to face the enormous challenge of trachoma in Ethiopia by implementing the World Health Organisation's SAFE strategy (eyelid surgery, antibiotics, face cleanliness and environmental improvement). We will continue to help reduce the risk of trachoma by training nurses to perform trichiasis surgeries at primary healthcare units and building awareness by teaching community health workers, teachers, local women’s group leaders and community leaders about eye health.

Patient stories: treating Aylito, Ethiopia, for trichiasis

June 16, 2017

Aylito lives in Ethiopia and has been blind in one eye since the age of six. She suffered from trichiasis, a painful eye condition, that threatened sight in her other eye. Unaware of available treatment options, Aylito lived with the impending possibility of losing her vision completely and the fear of not being able to take care of her family.
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What We're Doing Next

We have enjoyed great successes in Ethiopia over the past 20 years but there is still a huge amount of work to be done to further improve the quality of eye care:

We must do more if we are to help Ethiopia reach its target of eradicating blinding trachoma by 2020. While we are succeeding in reducing the spread of infection in our current regions, we need to take on more districts to expand our trachoma elimination and SAFE strategy roll out. That means we need to secure more funding to expand and cover the whole more of the country.

Ethiopia is in desperate need of more qualified ophthalmologists. Currently there are only five academic institutions offering 25 residents in ophthalmology training each year - this is simply not enough to fight blindness in the country.

We need further support to train the next generation of eye health specialist as we invest in training programs. The doctors we have trained over the past 20 years are now the teachers and we need to create more homegrown opportunities to train the next generation of eye health professionals.

Patient stories: treating Ajebush, Ethiopia, for myopia

June 22, 2017

Thanks to your support and the help of Orbis's community outreach programmes, Ajebush is now excelling at school in the Doyogena district of Ethiopia – but this wasn't always the case.
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  • Federal Ministry of Health
  • The Charities and Societies Agency
  • Regional Health, Education, Finance and Economic Development Bureau
  • District level sector offices
  • ICTC
  • NCBP

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