Project #8454

Orbis Provides Clean Water to Save Sight, Ethiopia

by Orbis Ireland
A young girl washes her hands with the clean water
A young girl washes her hands with the clean water

I recently returned from a trip to Bonke in southern Ethiopia where Orbis is implementing the SAFE strategy in order to eliminate a blinding and life destroying eye disease - trachoma. 

I met with my Ethiopian colleagues who explained the four aspects of the SAFE strategy - Surgery, Antibiotics, Face Washing and Environment. Each of these four components are vital in order to eradicate this horrific disease. I was priviledged enough to witness, firsthand the impact of Orbis' work. 

Our first stop was the local school, which is situated in the most beautiful setting amongst the lush green hills of southern Ethiopia - a landscape that surprised me. There we were greeted with a welcome song and dance followed by a drama showing one boy being brought to the local health centre and being cured of trachoma and the other being brought to the traditional healer and suffering immense pain without being cured. 

These children are part of school eye care clubs and they teach their fellow students, families and communities the importance of washing their face and hands in order to keep diseases, like trachoma, at bay. 

The students were so proud to show off their Orbis-funded toilets at the school, built in 2013. Prior to this the kids would defacate in the surrounding fields, spreading disease. The use of toilets is a massive contributing factor to the reduction of trachoma in these areas. 

We were also shown a nearby clean water supply. The children were so proud to show us both the toilets and the water supply. I was delighted to see so many clean faces and to hear the school children's enthusiasm for demonstrating good sanitation. 

The development in this area is immense and Orbis is making real strides in eliminating this painful and torturous eye disease. That is only half the story however, Orbis is completely transforming this region by improving the awareness surrounding personal hygiene and providing much needed clean water.

This impact is due to the support of people like you - thank you!  

This girl keeps her face and eyes clean
This girl keeps her face and eyes clean
Orbis Eye Care Clubs
Orbis Eye Care Clubs
Women's Group Leaders educate through song

In rural areas of Ethiopia, women are three to four times more likely than men to have blinding trachoma. Thus, control of trachoma is likely to benefit women more than men and educating women is likely to be more impactful in the reduction of trachoma. 

Training of Women's Group Leaders (WGL) and Community Health Agents (CHA) - who are all women - creates the opportunity to increase eye health awareness and address the problem through the active participation of women. 

Importantly, through repairing a number of water schemes across the region of Gama Gofa, Derashe and Konso in southern Ethiopia, Orbis has reduced the distance women have to travel to fetch water.

Now, women are able to better participate in economic activities, take better care of their own and their children’s hygiene and contribute to environmental improvement.

Women are taught about eye health care
Women are taught about eye health care
Women are responsible for fetching water
Women are responsible for fetching water
Collecting water from rehabilitated water supply
Collecting water from rehabilitated water supply

A study conducted by Orbis revealed that 109 water schemes in Gamo Gofa, Konso and Derashe - a region of over two million people in southern Ethiopia - were non-functional due to broken pipes or lack of simple maintenance. 

Had these water points been functional, the water coverage in this area would be more than 70%. This would significantly reduce the prevalence of trachoma in the area.

As part of the blinding trachoma elimination project in the area, Orbis raises awareness of the imporatnce of personal and environmental hygiene.

Orbis partnered with WaterAid Ethiopia and local NGO Mekane Jesu partnership in order to rehabilitate the non-functional water schemes in this area.

Six water points in Chencha Woreda were rehabilitated and are now serving about five thousand people.

Water committee members were selected and trained to manage the water points so if maintenance issues arise again there are people on hand to fix the water schemes. 

A water committee member said, “The problem of trachoma was very high when the water points were out of use for more than four years; our women were traveling more than 10KM to fetch water from the river. As this water is polluted, we were highly affected with trachoma. Our children stopped attending schools and stayed at home due to trachoma. Now things are becoming wonderful with us. Orbis solved our problem. We would like to say thank you to Orbis for understanding and solving our critical problem.”

Thank you for your support! You are making a real difference to thousands of people's lives. 

Rehabilitation of non-functioning water schemes
Rehabilitation of non-functioning water schemes
Children are educated to wash hands at school
Children are educated to wash hands at school

Trachoma is an infection of the eyes that may result in blindness after repeated re-infections. It is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness and occurs where people live in overcrowded conditions with limited access to water and health care. Trachoma spreads easily from person to person and is frequently passed from child to child and from child to mother within the family.

Primary interventions advocated for preventing trachoma infection include improved sanitation, reduction of fly breeding sites and increased facial cleanliness (with clean water) among children at risk of disease. 

Good personal and environmental hygiene has been proven to be successful in combating trachoma. Encouraging the washing of children's faces, improved access to water, and proper disposal of human and animal waste has been shown to decrease the number of trachoma infections in communities.

Orbis is currently working in the most rural areas of southern Ethiopia, where clean water is scarce, to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to wash, cook and clean. 

Thanks to your support Orbis will continue to provide access to clean water to communities across southern Ethiopia. 


Children collect clean water for their households
Children collect clean water for their households
Hand Washing in Dita
Hand Washing in Dita

In November 2014, a group of Orbis Ireland supporters visited Dita in the Gamo Gofa region of Southern Ethiopia. It was truly breathtaking to witness the difference that access to clean water in this area has made to the lives of the local children.Orbis Ireland has been working in Dita since 2007, and, through a partnership with WaterAid, we have helped to ensure that the people of this region have access to clean water.

The WHO recommended SAFE strategy for trachoma elimination places a huge emphasis on the need for clean water. Without this vital life giving resource, eliminating trachoma would be impossible. Clean water is particularly important as the promotion of hand and face washing is central to Orbis Ireland's work in Dita. 

It was touching to see the bright, clean faces on our visit to a school attended by approximately 700 children. The school was covered in posters about the importance of hand and face washing and the children performed a play demonstrating good and bad practices for personal hygiene.With your help, Orbis Ireland have not only improved access to clean water in Dita, but also drastically reduced the risk of blindness for hundreds of children.Thank you for all of your support in 2014, you have helped us towards our goal of stopping avoidable blindness in Dita.


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Organization Information

Orbis Ireland

Location: Sandyford, Dublin - Ireland
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Diane Weatherup
Sandyford, Dublin Ireland

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