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Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia

by Orbis Ireland
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Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia
Alemayehu Sisay & Clare O'Dea
Alemayehu Sisay & Clare O'Dea

Earlier this month, Clare O’Dea, Board Director of Orbis Ireland, spoke to Alemayehu Sisay, the Country Director for Orbis International Ethiopia.  Alemayehu is an Ophthalmologist and a public health expert and has worked with Orbis for the last 18 years.

Clare asked Alemayehu about the current Covid restrictions in Ethiopia and how they have affected the work of Orbis in the country.  

Alemayehu explains how Orbis’s innovative culture has allowed us to quickly adapt in response to COVID-19 and he explains how our work has been forced to change.  He points out how the health messaging around Covid-19 is very similar to that of trachoma and how this is a positve aspect of the restrictions.

You can watch the interview by clicking the link below.


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In rural southern Ethiopia, 58-year-old Belay used to enjoy spending time with her children and husband. She grew and sold a local crop called enset, and they scraped by. But her children married and her husband passed away, leaving her all alone.

Belay had already lost sight in her left eye due to glaucoma. Then in September, Belay suffered vision loss and unbearable pain in her right eye. She became isolated from her community. Because she could no longer work, she fell ever deeper into poverty.

Sadly, this story is not unusual in a country where there is limited access to quality health care. Many people in communities across Ethiopia suffer from treatable and preventable illnesses like trachoma. But they often encounter barriers to receiving the care they need.

Belay's fortunes took a life-changing turn when her nephew brought her to a local health center. After examining Belay, they told her they could not provide the care she needed. But they referred her to an Orbis-supported eye health center an hour away.

Belay and her nephew made the long journey to Agenna Health Center. An Orbis-trained health worker confirmed the trachoma diagnosis and gave her pain-relieving medicine. They also scheduled her urgent surgery to restore her sight.

"I expect my surgery to be successful and to see clearly again. I would like to sell enset again and do all the things I want without my vision being a problem.” ~ Belay, just before going into surgery.

Belay’s surgery went very well, and it was just in time to save her sight. If Belay hadn't been able to get the treatment she needed for her trachoma, she would have experienced irreversible blindness.

Supporters like you help Orbis in the fight to prevent and treat avoidable blindness for people like Belay.

Thank you.

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Today I would like to share a story with you about Andole Adare, an Integrated eye-care worker (IECW) trained by Orbis, who works at an Orbis Partner Hospital in Southern Ethiopia. Andole shares his story on how things have changed due to COVID-19.

“I am an Integrated Eye Care Worker which means I provide eye health services at the Bonke Health Centre and at outreach sites. As an Integrated Eye Care Worker, I have been trained to conduct TT surgery, I have also received training in screening patients with refractive error, treating them with spectacles and providing prescriptions.”

When the COVID-19 outbreak first reported in Ethiopia most health facilities suspended all healthcare services to halt the spread of infection. This interruption of health services posed a threat to vulnerable populations at risk of trachoma and cataract infections.

In April 2020 the government of Ethiopia issued a State of Emergency to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This set several challenges for Orbis to continue their work. Due to strict guidelines it was difficult for Orbis to continue all planned activities. Orbis focused where the need was the greatest, on conducting emergency surgeries.  

On a daily basis Andole conducts a trachomatous trichiasis (TT) surgery patient with all the required PPE to prevent COVID-19

As Andole explains “the pain from trachomatous trichiasis doesn’t leave in time, in fact it gets worse. The risk of permanent blindness does not decrease. People suffering need to get relief and cannot wait. Therefore, we continued treating patients at the health centre, but we did not go to outreach sites.”

The number of patients who came to the Health Centre has decreased since the outbreak which is understandable due to the restrictions on travel and gatherings. However, Andole is available to treat those at immediate risk of blindness. He follows the standardised and safe implementation measures that have been put in place while delivering the services, to ensure the infection is not spread.

Andole is also assisting with COVID-19 messaging. To date there have been no cases of COVID-19 in this region.  But Andole recognises the risks if the transmission rate across Ethiopia continues to rise. “We would suffer a lot. Therefore, my job is to keep repeating the message of how COVID-19 is spread from person to person and how to prevent transmission, so everyone understands how to protect themselves.” 

There is a strong crossover between eye health messages and COVID-19 messaging. Both advocate the importance of hand and face washing. Therefore, the training Andole received from Orbis on how to prevent and protect from infectious disease is so beneficial at this time to help prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for supporting Orbis Ireland and enabling us to train eye-care workers like Andole.

It is your support that enables us to continue our sight saving work.

Thank you.

Best Wishes,


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From our Orbis family to yours, we hope you're keeping safe and well. As a valued supporter of Orbis Ireland we would like to give you an update on how we are playing our part during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia.


The health and safety of our staff, volunteers, partners, and the people we train and help remains our highest priority. Due to COVID-19, some of our outreach activities have been postponed for the time being.


However, we are still working as hard as we can to continue our mission. Emergency surgeries and post-operative patient care are continuing at our partner hospitals and clinics in Ethiopia, within COVID-19 guidelines.


Here are some of the ways the Orbis team are playing their part in the COVID-19 response in Ethiopia:


Four of our Orbis drivers are now supporting partner hospitals and regional health bureaus to directly communicate COVID-19 messaging and guidelines to local communities through loudspeakers from the vehicles.


Infection prevention is a core part of trachoma elimination training. As part of the WASH initiative Orbis has provided training on behavioural change through hand and face washing for thousands of nurses, health extension workers and health department army volunteers – all of whom are committed to improving the health of their own communities – and many of whom are now involved in the COVID-19 response in their region.


While it's been a difficult last few weeks, we're hopeful things will continue to improve and start to return to normal soon. Together we will continue to have an everlasting and positive impact on many communities in Ethiopia.


Thank you for being part of the Orbis Family.

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Asegedech was one of the 1.2 million people in Ethiopia suffering from trachoma – a cruel and agonizing infection that slowly tortures and blinds.

Trachoma starts as an itch. It makes your eyes sting and water, almost impossible not to scratch. Of course, those affected unknowingly touch their eyes, then accidentally pass this highly infectious disease on to their family, friends and community.

And what makes this disease particularly cruel, is that it thrives in poor and remote communities where there’s a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and health care – communities like Asegedech’s in the Gamo Gofa Zone of southern Ethiopia.

Thirteen-year-old Asegedech has suffered from trachoma for over two years. While other children her age went to school each day, Asegedech was forced to stay at home. She suffered excruciating pain.

But help came when Tsehay, an Orbis-trained community eye care worker, came to Asegedech’s village.

Asegedech's trachoma was treated thanks to your support

Tsehay noticed Asegedech’s sore, weeping eyes straight away and put her on a course of sight-saving antibiotics. It’s amazing that such a brutal condition can be so easily treated, with the help of kind Orbis supporters like you.

Asegedech is now free from trachoma, thanks to your support.

Together, we can prevent this crisis and give many more people the life-changing eye care they deserve.

Thank you.

Kind Regards,

Orbis Ireland.

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Organization Information

Orbis Ireland

Location: Dublin,, Dublin - Ireland
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ORBISIreland
Project Leader:
Ciara Hennebry
Blackrock, Dublin Ireland
$7,882 raised of $10,000 goal
132 donations
$2,118 to go
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