Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight

by Orbis Ireland
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Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Training Teachers in Ethiopia to Save Sight
Dinknesh is an Orbis trained eye care worker
Dinknesh is an Orbis trained eye care worker

Incredible eye health workers like Dinknesh often travel treacherous journeys across the country to complete a crucial task in the fight to eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia.

Trachoma is an easily preventable bacterial eye infection. Yet today, it is still a significant cause of irreversible blindness and low vision across rural Ethiopia. Each year Orbis conduct Trachoma Impact Surveys in areas across southern Ethiopia. These surveys involve multiple teams travelling long distances to conduct home-to-home screenings. Each team comprises graders - who assess the eyes of people in the community and identify anyone with active trachoma – and recorders, who then record this data. This home-to-home process also ensures the most vulnerable people in the community are reached, like women and girls. 

Trachoma Impact Surveys are a critical tool in the fight against blinding trachoma. They give us vital prevalence data that helps determine interventions, and teams raise awareness, promote good hygiene, and offer treatment for early-stage trachoma.

Dinknesh, who works as an Integrated Eye Care Worker, became a trachoma Grader three years ago after receiving training from Orbis.

Her drive to work in eye care began when she witnessed someone’s sight restored: “The doctor removed a woman’s eye dressing. She looked up and she was able to see. Her joy was infectious.”

It is also painful to see those who are blind just because they couldn’t access eye care.”

Last year surveys began in September and took teams almost two months to complete from start to finish.

We screen around 30 houses each day. One day I found three children with active trachoma, two of the children were from the same household and I gave them eye ointments. On another day we found three adults that required surgery and we referred them to the nearest health center.”

For Dinknesh, one of the most rewarding aspects is hearing the stories of people whose lives have been transformed by their home-to-home screenings. “During this survey, I met a woman who told me that ‘last year I was blind, I stayed home alone, but because of your visit, I got referred to a health center for surgery and I can see now.’ I love this job because it prevents blindness.”

We want to thank Dinknesh and all her colleagues, who have been working hard to conduct the recent Trachoma Impact Surveys. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, many communities can look forward to a trachoma-free future.

Eye screening during trachoma impact survey
Eye screening during trachoma impact survey
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On October 5th we celebated World Teachers Day.

For Orbis, teachers play a vital role in the battle against avoidable blindness, so we want to take this opportunity to thank them all for their dedication and support. 

So we are celebrating teachers like Batiso who is a maths teacher in rural Ethiopia. Following his training from Orbis in primary eye care and vision testing, Batiso is now equipped to spot the first signs of eye disease in her students. So during the School Eye Care Club he runs, he teaches his students all about trachoma, how it’s transmitted, and prevented. He uses a simple teaching technique for the students that they can easily share with their families and communities. It costs just €40 to train teachers like Batiso.

Batiso during School Eye Care Club
Batiso during School Eye Care Club
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Biology teacher Banchi making a difference
Biology teacher Banchi making a difference

For many of the children we've worked with, it was school that first revealed issues with their sight.  Reading, writing, looking at the blackboard, even playing with friends: all of these activities are seriously impacted if a child is having problems with their sight, which is why teachers have such a significant role to play. Often, they're the ones to identify when a minor problem starts to become a major issue.

Banchi is a biology teacher from Ethiopia. Since she completed her Orbis-funded training in primary eye care and vision testing, she has had a huge impact on the eye health of her community, identifying 11 cases of trachoma in students and referring them for treatment. She also runs the schools eye care club - which has 50 students, as well as screening the children Banchi also teaches pupils about trachoma, eye care and the importance of good hygiene. Her students can also then share this knowledge with their families and in the wider community, helping to combat the spread of trachoma through knowledge sharing.


 "When I help a stu­dent, they are hap­py. Not just the stu­dents, but the com­mu­ni­ty too!" 

- Biology Teacher, Ethiopia.

With your support we are not just able to train teachers, but to have a long-lasting impact on their students as well as the community around them. Thank you very much for all your support!

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Amarech (after her sight-saving surgery)
Amarech (after her sight-saving surgery)

Nearly two million people around the world are blind or have visual impairment due to trachoma, a painful bacterial eye infection. If left untreated, trachoma can lead to trichiasis, an even more excruciating and severe condition. Thanks to you more people in Ethiopia are free from the pain and fear of trachoma—thank you!

Ten years ago, Amarech started to feel excruciating pain in both of her eyes. She noticed that opening and closing her eyes was becoming extremely uncomfortable. To reduce the pain, she was using a local eyelash-picking material called ‘worento’ for temporary relief. But Amarech’s untreated eye condition was starting to have more serious long-term effects. She became hypersensitive towards the light, couldn’t work, and stopped seeing friends and family.

As someone who had been very proud of her work—preparing a local drink called ‘Cheka’—Amarech was left feeling defeated and unable to provide her family with the income they needed. Her son pitched in to help by working longer days on the family farm. But his studies suffered as a result, and the family knew this couldn’t be a long-term solution.

Another woman in a nearby community, Beyenech, was also suffering from the same symptoms. Like Amarech, she also had to stop attending social gatherings and couldn’t do her daily work on the family farm. Beyenech had tried medications she received from nearby health facilities, but there was no improvement.

Thanks to Orbis supporters like you, Amarech and Beyenech were both visited by a case finder named Ato who had been trained by Orbis. Because many people are confined to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis has been conducting door-to-door visits to ensure people who need eye care can still receive it.

During the visits to the homes of Amarech and Beyenech, Ato saw that both women were suffering from trichiasis, caused by repeat trachoma infections. Ato referred each of them to a nearby health centre where they could receive the surgery they needed. Both women were at risk of losing their sight altogether if they didn’t receive treatment fast.

Trachoma is one of those most prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases and a major focus of Orbis’s work around the globe, particularly in rural Ethiopia, where the condition persists, and eye care can be difficult to access. With your continued support, our goal is to eliminate this leading cause of blindness around the world. 

Following Ato’s advice, Amarech and Beyenech received bilateral surgery on their upper eyelids, and the procedures were very successful. Both women are thrilled to be able to see clearly again. Now, they are able to work, provide for their families, and socialize free of fear and pain!

Beyenech (in discomfort and pain, before surgery)
Beyenech (in discomfort and pain, before surgery)
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Shemsedin gives his daughter the antibiotic
Shemsedin gives his daughter the antibiotic

The pandemic severely impacted eye health services in Ethiopia. And after months of restrictions, Orbis partner hospitals and clinics were able to resume our eye health services. But we faced challenges in adaptation, both in health facilities and in community outreach programmes, so we could operate in a Covid-secure manner. 

It wasn’t until the final quarter of 2020 when we were in the position to fully begin supporting eye health facilities so trachoma trichiasis and cataract surgery and other services could be provided.

Unfortunately, if someone's eye condition is not identified early enough, it can lead to irreversible visual impairment or even blindness – which in turn can create a cycle of social exclusion, emotional trauma and economic hardship. 

In Ethiopia, specialist skills and knowledge of eye health is in demand and Orbis needs to be there to provide those skills. We need to work with governments, schools, communities and eye health professionals to screen and treat those who need us, to create brighter futures.

Shemsedin is a farmer from southern Ethiopia. He watched his grandparents lose their sight due to trachoma and, at that time, nothing could be done to help them. His generation, and that of his 11-month-old daughter, have been spared the same fate through the educational efforts of Orbis, and the medicine and treatment they provide within his village.

Shemsedin and his daughter, Hamdia, both received the antibiotic to prevent trachoma infection during a house-to-house mass drug administration programme by Orbis. They were just two of almost a million people who received the drug in the area.  

The past 18 months brought new health challenges to this community in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the hygiene education and initiatives put in place by Orbis, Shemsedin feels more prepared for tackling trachoma and Covid-19.

"In the past, our parents struggled with their vision because of trachoma. Most of us have some family members who lost their eyesight." Shemsedin

We’re only able to continue reaching people like Shemsedin and his daughter, particularly amid the pandemic, thanks to the incredible support we receive.

Shemesdin and his daughter
Shemesdin and his daughter
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Orbis Ireland

Location: Dublin,, Dublin - Ireland
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ORBISIreland
Project Leader:
Diane Weatherup
Blackrock , Dublin Ireland
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