SEATTLE —February 1, 2012—Thousands of lives will be transformed as a result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to be signed today in Addis Ababa by the Eye Bank of Ethiopia and SightLife, in partnership with ORBIS International and the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). Together, the organizations have committed gifts of time, talent and more than $150,000 over five years to scale up the capacity of the Eye Bank of Ethiopia to better meet the needs of 350,000 Ethiopians who suffer from bilateral and unilateral corneal blindness. This agreement complements past and present HCP and ORBIS International Ethiopian initiatives to build corneal surgeon capacity and expertise.
“This partnership with the Eye Bank of Ethiopia will bring much-needed care to an underserved population and transform lives the way we have already done in other parts of the world,” said Monty Montoya, SightLife president and CEO. “The potential to impact corneal blindness in Ethiopia, and ultimately Sub-Saharan Africa, is very significant.”
SightLife, ORBIS International and HCP formed this collaboration in an effort to leverage their individual organizational efficiencies to have a greater impact on one of the leading causes of avoidable blindness in Ethiopia.
ORBIS International has been working on blindness prevention in Ethiopia since 1996 and helped establish the Eye Bank of Ethiopia, officially inaugurated on June 28, 2003. "Over the last five years, The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) has been training and equipping eye surgeons and hospitals in all regions of Ethiopia to provide improved access to corneal services This historic partnership to expand access to corneal transplantation will allow Ethiopia to lead the way in treating corneal blindness in Sub-Saharan Africa,” stated Matthew Oliva, MD, HCP board member.
SightLife will bring its operating expertise and consulting capabilities to the relationship with the Eye Bank of Ethiopia. As part of its global development program, SightLife offers partner eye banks a complete eye banking program -- an “Eye Bank in a Box” -- with all the tools, training and systems to build scalable, sustainable and quality eye banks. Similar partnerships with eight eye banks partners in India have resulted in up to 100% annual growth rates. Over the next five years, the organizations will work together to make the operation self-sustaining. Current plans call for the Ethiopia Eye Bank to increase its capacity eight-fold and support over 800 transplant surgeries annually by 2016.
The MOU will be signed by Jeremy Shuman, director of SightLife’s global programs, and Dr. Abraham Endeshaw Mengistu, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Eye Bank of Ethiopia. The event will be witnessed and celebrated by representatives of Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health, the Ethiopian Medical Association, the Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian National Association of the Blind and other interested organizations. Haile Gebrselassie, international marathon champion and Eye Bank of Ethiopia board member, also will be in attendance.
Founded in 1969, SightLife is the only non-profit global health organization and eye bank solely focused on eliminating corneal blindness in the U.S. and around the world. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, the organization leverages innovative technologies and best business practices to transform lives and unlock life's possibilities for the corneal blind. SightLife works in partnership with surgeons and health organizations in more than 30 countries. SightLife provided a record 5,233 corneas for transplant and in addition, its global eye bank partners provided 5,622 corneas for transplant in 2011. For more information, visit www.SightLife.org.
About ORBIS International
ORBIS International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that works in developing countries to save sight worldwide. ORBIS prevents and treats blindness through hands-on training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, and partnering with local health care organizations in an effort to eliminate avoidable blindness. For more information on ORBIS, please visit www.ORBIS.org.
About Himalayan Cataract Project
The Himalayan Cataract Project works to eradicate preventable and curable blindness through high quality ophthalmic care, education and the establishment of a world-class eye care infrastructure. For more information on the HCP, please visit www.cureblindness.org.