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.
Nov 9, 2012

Improving environment-fighting avoidable blindness

Boy at communal latrine
Boy at communal latrine

The importance of improving sanitation and the environment in the fight against avoidable blindness

There are an estimated 9 million children in Ethiopia suffering from the blinding disease trachoma. On a recent visit to Dita in southern Ethiopia, I witnessed first-hand the importance of improving the environment in the fight against avoidable blindness.

ORBIS has adopted the four aspects of the World Health Organizations SAFE strategy. These are surgery to correct the advanced form of trachoma, distribution of antibiotics to treat the early stages, education with regard to the importance of face washing and personal hygiene and the improvement of the environment with regard to building latrines and providing access to clean water. In order to completely eradicate trachoma in southern Ethiopia, all four aspects of the SAFE strategy must be implemented at the same time.

ORBIS is working alongside local communities to improve the surrounding environment through improving access to clean water and sanitation.

Dita is located in a very remote part of southern Ethiopia which is not easily accessible, particularly during the rainy season. With a population of 100,000 people it is difficult to establish and maintain proper sanitation facilities. As a result, bacteria can spread quickly and trachoma infections are very common. Until recently, open field defecation around the periphery of the villages was a common phenomenon in the area.

Health education through ORBIS trained teachers, health extension workers and integrated eye care workers; combined with the construction of model communal latrines has reduced the open field defecation practice.

These changes in attitude in Dita are resulting in more and more locals realizing the importance of good personal hygiene and sanitation and they are also building their own household latrines using local materials. 

The active involvement of communities is central to the complete eradication of trachoma and other bacterial infections. The construction of these latrines and the increased practice of using these facilities are central to the fight against avoidable blindness in the region.

9 November 2012

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Sep 21, 2012

Sight Saving Surgery for Desalech Dosena age 10

Sight Saving Surgery for Desalech Dosena age 10

Desalech is a 10 year old girl who lives close to Zada in southern Ethiopia. She is a carefree girl who has a bright future ahead of her. She had been suffering from ongoing debilitating pain in her right eye for two years, which had a serious impact on her well-being and everyday life. Desalech’s discomfort continued until she could barely open her eyes and the pain of moving her eyelids was excruciating.

A Community Health Agent who was going house to house in the area brought her to the nearby Health Centre. Desalech was examined by Seifu Wanake,an ORBIS eye care worker, and Desalech was found to have trichiasis in her eye and needed corrective surgery. Trichiasis in under 15 year olds is common in the poorest areas of southern Ethiopia, where families can simply not afford treatment.

Like any 10 year old girl, Desalech was naturally terrified at first at the thought of surgery. She went ahead bravely, and after a successful surgery Desalech is now back to being her happy, lively self. At the Health Centre, Desalech was also given zithromax, a medicine that will prevent a recurrence of this disease. Three rounds of zithromax have been distributed to 97% of the population to date, kindly donated by Pfizer.

Trachoma is a major cause of blindness in the world, found primarily in rural settings, like Zada. Children are most susceptible to the infection, with blinding effects of the disease often not known until adulthood. If Desalech had not received treatment for her triachiasis, it is highly likely that she would have become blind due to scarring of the cornea.

To reduce the episodes of trachoma, ORBIS is trying to eliminate trachoma in this poor region. It does this by providing corrective surgeries which cure the disease and distributing the antibiotic zithromax (kindly donated by Pfizer), educating locals on the importance of personal hygiene and improving sanitation by providing clean water and building latrines. With your support we can continue to work towards completely transforming this region so the next generation can grow up free of the threat of blindness and children like Desalech can enjoy once more, a happy carefree childhood, free from unnecessary pain.

 

September 2012

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Sep 21, 2012

A closer look at the work of ORBIS

Bonsa Lelenda, 10, is blind in one eye. His family took him to a clinic four years ago 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 (zithromax)distribution sponsored by ORBIS. Zithromax is the Pfizer-donated antibiotic used to protect against trachoma-an infectious disease that has blinded millions across Africa. Trachoma runs rampant in rural Ethiopia, with paediatric infection rates as high as 90 percent.

“Bonsa needs to take Zithromax in particular 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.

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.

CONVINCING VILLAGERS ISN’T EASY!

In one year, ORBIS-trained health workers would visit over 1000 villages to distribute Zithromax. 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.

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

MAKING VILLAGES “SAFE”

ORBIS’s involvement in combating trachoma extends beyond the distribution of Zithromax. ORBIS promotes important behavioural changes to guard against re-infection, advocating and implementing the World Health Organisation’s “SAFE” strategy, which aims to eliminate trachoma through Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and Environmental improvement.

Now that Bonsa has begun his Zithromax therapy, 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 his schooling, his family and his hopes for the future.

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