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 23, 2016

Teachers encourage behavioral change

Teachers screen students at school in Ethiopia
Teachers screen students at school in Ethiopia

Behavioural change is the foundation of eliminating avoidable eye diseases, such as trachoma, in Ethiopia. Encouraging behavioural change drives a higher proportion of clean faces, an uptake of surgical services and increase latrine utilization in order to limit transmission risk.

A highly effective tool in encouraging change is training communities in the importance of personal hygiene and using latrines rather than defecating outside. Community health workers, local public leaders and teachers play a crucial role in educating communities. 

Zerihun works in a large school in Bonke in rural south Ethiopia. He was recently trained by Orbis in basic eye care and the ways to prevent trachoma. He also screens the students for eye diseases, such as trachoma.

Training teachers is a critical part of Orbis’ work in rural Ethiopia to educate children about eye health and prevent trachoma.

Photo: Geoff Oliver Bugbee/Orbis

May 4, 2016

Global Partners Donate 500m Doses of Antibiotic

Tigist is measured for dosage
Tigist is measured for dosage

Orbis recently joined with the International Trachoma Initiative, Pfizer, International Coalition for Trachoma Control and a number of other not for profit organisations to celebrate Pfizer’s donation of the 500 millionth dose of Zithromax, an antibiotic used to treat trachoma.

The milestone marks significant achievement in global efforts to help eliminate this infectious and preventable eye disease that can lead to permanent blindness as a public health threat by the year 2020.

Delegations from across the world gathered in the Waliso region of Ethiopia to celebrate the donation of the 500 millionth Zithromax dose. 

“This milestone highlights what is possible when partners work together toward a common goal and signifies remarkable achievement in our fight to eliminate trachoma globally,” said Virginia Sarah, chair, International Coalition for Trachoma Control, an alliance of organizations committed to supporting national program efforts in more than 30 countries to eliminate trachoma using the SAFE strategy, an approach that includes antibiotic treatment. “Our collective efforts are helping to reduce the impacts of this ancient, preventable disease on affected individuals, families and communities.”

The burden of trachoma remains highest in Ethiopia, with 75 million people at risk, and the Federal Ministry of Health is working with Alliance partners to significantly expand the number of people in Ethiopia who are treated.

“The expansion of the SAFE strategy across Ethiopia is vital in alleviating the sufferings of millions of our people and ultimately eradicating trachoma from our soil,” said His Excellency Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. “The burden of trachoma is too high, but with the implementation of SAFE strategies, including Pfizer’s donation of Zithromax, and efficient partnership with international partners, we are determined to achieve this goal.”

Trachoma is an infectious disease, which can develop into a condition in which eyelids turn inwards and eyelashes scrape the eyeball, causing great pain, corneal ulcers and irreversible blindness. There are 232 million people in 58 countries at risk, with more than 80 percent of the global burden of the disease concentrated in 14 countries, mostly in Africa. Trachoma is responsible for the visual impairment of approximately 2.2 million people, 1.2 million of whom are irreversibly blind. It threatens entire socio-economic infrastructures and as a result, is estimated to cause USD $3-6 billion in lost productivity per year across affected countries.

Rebecca Cronin (CEO, Orbis UK) commented: “The magnitude of this incredible milestone highlights the amazing power of partnerships and just what can be achieved when organizations work together towards a common goal. By recognizing each other’s strengths we have created an effective strategy to tackle trachoma. It’s hard to calculate the total impact of this work; hundreds of millions of lives have been positively affected by the distribution of Zithromax. This action has empowered people to generate an income, build up economies through enabling a workforce to be free of this devastating condition and has helped children to gain an education. But we can do more, and we will continue to do so until this condition is stamped out across the world.”

Dr.Kebede Worku hands out Zithromax dose
Dr.Kebede Worku hands out Zithromax dose
Students perform Trachoma song
Students perform Trachoma song
Mar 1, 2016

Empowering women to reduce trachoma

A mother and her two children
A mother and her two children

Environmental change in a community is necessary for long-term protection from trachoma. The disease persists where people live in poverty with crowded living conditions and where there is insufficient basic infrastructure for water, sanitation, and waste disposal. Unless such conditions change, trachoma will return after antibiotic treatment.

The World Health Organisation has set the year 2020 as the target to eliminate blindness resulting from trachoma. This is a difficult but achievable target. To get there we must have inclusive community-based programmes that offer freedom from trachoma for all, but that also specifically and deliberately target women and girls.

Gender-specific household tasks place women at an increased risk for trachoma infection. For instance, women are more likely to have higher rate of trachoma because they are the primary caregivers of children. 

Hygiene should be understood from a gender perspective. Gender informs hygiene behaviors, which place men and women at different risks. Although women are responsible for the hygiene of their children, they may not be empowered to make decisions about the allocation of household resources for hygiene purposes. This includes access to water, soap, towels, or washcloths (if even used) and the time to teach hygiene to children. 

When water is not easily accessible, face-washing declines. Communities may be reluctant to use precious water for hygenic purposes which reduces water for more basic sustenance activities. 

Women must be reached with health education so that they can protect themselves, and their children, from trachoma. They must be reached with treatment to cure their current infections. They must have access to water and sanitation. 

 
   

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