Orbis Ireland

Orbis' mission is to preserve and restore sight by strengthening the capacity of local partners in their efforts to prevent and treat blindness with the vision that this will lead to a world in which no one is needlessly blind, where quality eye care, education, and treatment are available to every human being.
May 13, 2015

The impact of school eye care clubs

School children watch a play by the eye club
School children watch a play by the eye club

Set up to bring awareness and understanding to areas struggling with trachoma in Ethiopia, school eye care clubs are a vital tool in the drive to educate communities across about keeping their eyes and their families healthy.

The eye care clubs are run by a number of students who are educated, by their teachers, on good eye care practices. These teachers are trained by skilled Orbis workers on primary eye care and vision testing. These teachers are vital in recognising vision problems and eye diseases, like trachoma.

The trained teachers recognise the impact of educating children on the importance of hand washing, proper latrine use and hygiene, in order to prevent trachoma. The students then communicate to their fellow students in a variety of ways, including singing songs and drama.

The eye care clubs perform different treatment scenarios to the school. They split into two groups, each representing families: one demonstrating the correct way to respond when suffering from an eye infection, the other highlighting the opposite.

These clubs play an enormous role in educating the community. With some schools having thousands of students, the important messages regarding hygiene, quick action and appropriate treatment, have the capacity to reach a vast amount of people at risk of this painful and debilitating condition.

Through your generosity to Orbis you help us to set up more clubs to educate those in at-risk communities about the prevention and treatment of avoidable eye care conditions.

School girls sing about eliminating trachoma
School girls sing about eliminating trachoma
May 1, 2015

Restoring sight not only effects individuals

Amina before surgery
Amina before surgery

Amina, 52, lives in a one room hut with her two sons and their cattle. Amina suffered repeated infections of trachoma for three years, which eventually led to trichiasis, the blinding form of the disease. Her husband abandoned her when her eye problems began. Throughout Ethiopia, the practice of men having more than one wife is culturally accepted, and if a wife gets sick, they will be abandoned for a new one.  

Three years ago, Amina was healthy and able to conduct her daily activities, but when she started to suffer with repeated trachoma infections, everything became very difficult. Amina’s older son noticed her eye problems; her eyes were swollen and getting worse and worse. At night she could not sleep, due to the pain of her eyelashes scratching her cornea.

One of the reasons why reinfection occurred is the smoke created from cooking inside the hut. Smoke can cause severe damage to the eyes, and most huts do not have chimneys or any kind of ventilation. Sharing the living space with livestock also increases infection rates.

Amina heard about Orbis from a Community Health Agent travelling door-to-door. The Orbis-trained Health Agent immediately recognised that Amina had the blinding form of trachoma and would need surgery immediately before she lost her sight completely.

Amina felt hopeful about regaining her sight, but felt very anxious about the surgery. The surgery was conducted in a local health centre by an Orbis-trained Eye Care Worker. The surgery takes just 20 minutes.

The surgery was a success! Amina can now get back to her normal life and perform all her activities. This also means that her sons are no longer needed on the farm and the younger one, who is only seven, can return to school.

Since the surgery, Amina feels very positive about the benefits of the eye care services established by Orbis. She now understands the pain and poverty that trachoma can bring.

Thank you for supporting this project. Together we will continue to restore sight to those at immediate risk of blindness. 

Amina is successfully operated!
Amina is successfully operated!
May 1, 2015

Convincing Villagers isn`t easy!

Bonsa
Bonsa

Bonsa is 10 years old and blind in one eye. His family took him to a clinic when they first noticed problems, but the ointment Bonsa was given failed to save his sight.

Asrat Gebre, Orbis Project Coordinator in Ethiopia, met Bonsa and his family at an antibiotic distribution outreach programme, supported by Orbis. The antibiotic is used to protect against trachoma - an infectious disease that has blinded millions across Ethiopia.

“Bonsa needs to take antibiotics because he is already blind in one eye” Asrat said. “If his second eye becomes infected and he loses his sight, he will be completely blind. The blindness in his left eye proves he’s highly susceptible to infection.

Although it isn’t known what caused the blindness in Bonsa’s left eye, trachoma is a constant threat to the right. The disease is spread by flies, clothing and close human contact – particularly between mother and child- and festers in dry areas where people have limited access to water. Many Ethiopians consider trachoma an unavoidable fact of life.

Annually, Orbis-trained health workers visit over 1000 villages to distribute antibiotics. The large turn-out pleased the health workers, but convincing villagers of the efficacy of the antibiotic has not been easy.

Health workers first had to familiarise villagers with the antibiotic and convince them of its role in fighting trachoma. Then they had to persuade the villagers to overcome their suspicions about unknown medication, particularly when it came to giving it to their children.

This antibiotic offers a simple cure that has a marked success at controlling trachoma infection rates across Ethiopia!

Now that Bonsa has begun taking antibiotics, he can look forward to a future unmarred by the fear of total blindness. Worrying that his right eye would go blind was always on his mind, he said. Now he can concentrate on more important things, like school, his family and his hopes for the future.

Bonsa
Bonsa

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