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.