Health
 Ethiopia
Project #6674

Distributing Antibiotics to Prevent Blindness

by Orbis Ireland
Vetted
Adanech with her daughter receiving antibiotics
Adanech with her daughter receiving antibiotics

Adanech recently brought her two daughters to one of Orbis' antibiotic* distributuion outreach programmes in southern Ethiopia. 

Adanech had suffered from trachoma 10 years ago and, after repeated infection without any treatment, she needed surgery in order to reverse the effects.

Therefore, when she heard about the outreach programme, from Health Extension Workers who visited her village, she knew how important it was for her daughters to receive the medication.

"I now understand the effects of trachoma. I know how to help my daughters from experiencing the same pain. I nearly went blind and I don't want that for them".

"In our community sight is very important because we need to go to fetch water, we need to go to buy something from the market, we need to go collect fire wood and the like and we use our eyes. If we have sight problems it is difficult to do all of these activities and we’re not going to be able to contribute. In the past I have seen people in our community that have had trachoma end up begging on the side of the road because they are unable to work. This medicine is going to help us be relieved from all these problems and that’s why I’m here". 

Orbis is working to contribute to the reduction of avoidable blindness and visual impairment due to trachoma. An estimated 200 million people are at risk of trachoma in 42 countries. Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease. It occurs in some of the poorest populations with limited access to clean water, sanitation, and healthcare, and is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness.

In southern Ethiopia, Orbis is implementing the World Health organisation's SAFE strategy which involves conducting corrective Surgery to reverse the effects of blinding trachoma; distributing Antibiotics to treat the initial blinding infection; raising awareness of the importance of Facial cleanliness to prevent the bacteria which causes the infection and improving the surrounding Environment through access to clean water and sanitation. 

Thanks to your continued support, we are able to distribute more antibiotics to fight the infection. 

*Zithromax is the Pfizer-donated antibiotic used to protect against trachoma. 

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.  


Attachments:

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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Organization Information

Orbis Ireland

Location: Sandyford, Dublin - Ireland
Website: http:/​/​www.orbis.org
Project Leader:
Diane Weatherup
Development Manager
Dublin, Co. Dublin Ireland

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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