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.
Wajifo Wakara is a 20 year old man who lives in Zada, southern Ethiopia. Wajifo started to experience severe pain and suffered redness and profuse discharge in his eyes. He had contracted the highly contagious and life destroying disease, trachoma.
Trachoma is a major cause of blindness in the world, found primarily in rural settings like Zada, in southern Ethiopia. If not treated properly, trachoma may worsen and cause blindness, due to scarring of the cornea. In Wajifo’s case, the pain he experienced had a serious impact on his ability to work, sleep, and help his family members, and on his overall health and wellbeing.
To reduce the episodes of trachoma ORBIS are desperately trying to transform this region. Not only through surgeries which cure the disease, but also through 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.
In July 2010, Wajifo underwent trichiasis surgery in his right eye, conducted by an ORBIS worker. The operation was successful and he no longer suffers excruciating pain. Since then, he has had two rounds of zithromax. This will help prevent a recurrence of trachoma. Wajifo continues to visit the Zada Health Centre for regular treatment and check-ups. Here, he can access zithromax on an on-going basis, and ensure that the risk of contracting trachoma is kept to a minimum. He was also shown how to maintain facial cleanliness to prevent the bacteria which causes infection.
Pfizer has pledged to donate the antibiotic zithromax for the life of the campaign and to date ORBIS has received $68m worth of the drug. ORBIS is currently distributing over one million doses of the antibiotic per year in southern Ethiopia.
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.
ORBIS-trained health workers visit numerous villages throughout the region of Gamo Gofa, Derashe and Konso in order to distribute the antibiotic Zithromax. Many of these villages are extremely remote and therefore the knowledge of ORBIS and its sight saving work is completely unknown. In these cases is it at times not easy to convince villagers of the efficacy of the antibiotic.
It is not uncommon for villagers to believe in witchcraft as a method to cure blindness and to convince them otherwise is at times a lengthy process.
Health workers first have to familiarise villagers with the antibiotic and convince them of its role in fighting trachoma. Then they have to persuade the villagers to overcome their suspicions about unknown medication, particularly when it comes to giving it to their children.
Bonsa Lalenda is 10 years old, he lives in southern Ethiopia and 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 in his left eye.
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 - particulary between mother and child - and festers in dry areas where people have limited access to water. Many Ethiopians consider trachoma an avoidable fact of life.
Four years later and Bonsa's parents brought him to an ORBIS outreach programme, distributing the antibiotic zithromax. After an examination by an ORBIS trained Health Worker it is clear that that Bonsa has trachoma in his right eye. Left untreated this infection would progressively get worse and extremely painful, eventually leading to blindness,
Trachoma can be treated in its early stages with a single oral dose of the antibiotic zithromax. It is recommended that an annual dose of zithromax is administered for three consecutive years. Pfizer has pledged to donate the antibiotic zithromax for the life of the campaign and to date ORBIS has received $68m worth of the drug.
Bonsa received the antibiotic which cleared the infection and saved his sight.
ORBIS is currently distributing over one million doses of the antibiotic per year in southern Ethiopia.
I recently made an annual trip to Ethiopia to take part in the Great Ethiopian Run to raise money for ORBIS. As part of the trip I travelled to Gamo Gofa, Derashe and Konso (GGDK) to witness firsthand the amazing sight saving work of ORBIS.
Trachoma is a constant threat to the sight of Ethiopians. 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 as an unavoidable fact of life.
ORBIS is working to change this and through the implementation of the *SAFE strategy throughout the region, ORBIS aims to eliminate the blinding eye disease – trachoma. This strategy includes the distribution of antibiotics which treats the trachoma infection.
During our visit we were fortunate to visit a community where the annual distribution of the antibiotic, *zithromax was being conducted.
We met a young girl of 18 months who, on examination, had trachoma. Children under six months are not able to take the antibiotic and therefore she had been too young to receive the antibiotic the previous year.
Trachoma had developed and therefore she had endured extreme pain and discomfort for up to a year. Without treatment, this disease progressively gets worse leading to the blinding complication of trachoma in which the eyelids turn inward and eyelashes rake across the eye’s surface.
Thankfully, she was on her way to receive her first dose of Zithromax. Her pain will be relieved and her vision preserved thanks to ORBIS.
This project seemed almost insurmountable a few years ago but now, for the first time and thanks to continuous generosity, it looks like we could just reach our goal of eradicating trachoma in this region
*The SAFE strategy designed to prevent and control trachoma, stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and Environmental change.
*Zithromax is kindly donated by Pfizer
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