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 25, 2012

If you teach a man to fish...

ORBIS volunteer seeks to end blindness by building eye care capacity in Ethiopia

Irish ophthalmologist Donal Brosnahan, recently spent a week in Addis Ababa. What he left behind was even more valuable than the sight regained by the handful of children he personally treated. Thanks to his efforts, and those of ORBIS, Ethiopia now has two more ophthamologists trained in advanced paediatric surgical techniques.  

“The purpose was to teach skills”, says Brosnahan who practices in Dublin, Ireland. “We had two local ophthamologists, one with quite a bit of paediatric experience. The first day we screened 36 patients to find the best cases for teaching. I then spent 5 days instructing and assisting surgeries at Menelik II Hospital in Addis Ababa”.

During his time at the hospital, Brosnahan also helped educate operating room nurses and primary care physicians in techniques as well as instructing public health workers in screening and follow up skills for patients in remote villages and underserved urban areas.

“It was a full, 360-degree training effort, a comprehensive approach that recognises you have to have it all to make surgery possible. Anesthesia, nursing, equipment maintenance, and supplies as well as surgical skills. One element is not enough to make the whole thing work”.

The systematic approach of improving eye care that Dr Brosnahan experienced exemplifies the ORBIS philosophy.

Dr Brosnahan spends a week every year volunteering for ORBIS in Ethiopia. “It gives me an opportunity to give back”. It also deepens his appreciation for the high level of skill of his colleagues in Ireland. “You kind of take it for granted that expert anaesthesia and nursing and equipment maintenance will be there, but they aren’t everywhere”.

May 17, 2012

Maintaining water pumps

In Ethiopia, one of the best ways to prevent the transmission of trachoma is by encouraging face and hand washing - not easy where water is scarce. This will help to slow the spread of bacteria which causes infection and ultimately prevent people from contracting trachoma. ORBIS representatives have started to train teachers about facial cleanliness, personal hygiene, environmental sanitation and how to wash hands effectively to prevent the spread of bacteria.

In order to train the local community, it is important that water is readily available. The biggest challenge in water development and provision is not the initial cost (which is very high), but the maintenance and follow –up of its function.

Within the Konso area in southern Ethiopia, almost 60% of the water-pumps were non functional. ORBIS implemented a strategy to repair the non-functional water schemes. This involves training community members on how to perform minor repairs on these pumps to ensure they are in working order.  A WASH committee was also set up to generate revenue for the repair. This strategy is focused on the repair of these non-functional schemes and handing over the responsibility to the communities, which is a very cost effective approach.

A single water scheme could serve a population of up to 100 households. If the scheme is located in a school it can serve more than 1000 students. The average cost of maintenance is about ETB10, 000 or approx €400.

May 17, 2012

Building household latrines

Household latrine in Dita
Household latrine in Dita

I recently traveled to Dita in southern Ethiopia where trachoma is a major public health problem. This is largely due to a scarcity of clean water, poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. These conditions inevitably give rise to trachoma infections.

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

Dita is located in the highlands, where access and communication is extremely poor. With a population of just under 100,000 people it is difficult to establish and maintain proper sanitation facilities. These poor sanitary conditions mean that bacteria spread quickly and trachoma infections are common. Open field defecation around the periphery of the villages was a common phenomenon in the area until recently.

Health education through 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 building their own household latrines using local materials. 

The active involvement of communities is central for the project to have a lasting impact. The construction of these latrines - both at a community and household level - will demonstrate that the use of such facilities could reduce the disease transmission and maintain clean and healthy environment.

A watrer bottle to wash your hands
A watrer bottle to wash your hands
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