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Abiyot's story: Making an impact on an entire community

October 2018

Thanks to our amazing partners and supporters we've been transforming lives in Ethiopia for 20 years. We want to take this opportunity to celebrate the important role played by members of the Orbis family. This is the story of Abiyot - an Integrated Eye Care Workers (IECW) - based in Gamo Gofa, Ethiopia.

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Abiyot loves his role and although he has only been doing it for two years, he already seems to have made a significant impact on his community.

Abiyot only undertook his training to become an Integrated Eye Care Worker just over two years ago. We meet in his small surgery. The room is very basic, with yellow walls, one bed and sterilised surgical instruments on a small tray next to him.

I remember my first surgery,” he tells us. “It was done in Konso in the training, the very first training. I was a bit nervous, but my guide came and showed me how to do it. I watched carefully and from then on, I started doing the perfect surgery!” He laughs at this – he’s joking, but he’s not incorrect

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Abiyot has been an Integrated Eye Care Worker for two years. His care goes way beyond just eye care treatments for his patients

Our team in Gamo Gofa explain that, since Abiyot began working, he hasn’t had a single complication in any of his surgeries. In his training alone, he has performed 32 surgeries in the 20 days of practical training; he is the first IECW in the training process to do this.

Now, Abiyot covers two health centres, and performs up to 50 trachoma trichiasis surgeries a month. “He’s very wonderful!” a member of our Gamo Gofa team says. He seems to have made quite an impact on the community too. He grew up in this area, and he still lives there now, with his wife and four children, helping the people around him.

People recognise him as someone who can help them. On our way back from a home visit, an old woman, who happened to be walking past stopped him. They spoke briefly, and he checked her eyes there and then. He is clearly trusted.

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Inside the surgery where Abiyot performs his sight-saving operations

We see this when we visit a patient named Mandido’s house after undergoing trachoma surgery, performed by Abiyot. She had previously tried to go for trachoma surgery, but was too scared to go through with it. However when Abiyot met her in her village, his gentle counselling helped give her the courage to undergo the treatment she needed. Without his help, she would have lived with her trachoma, and may eventually have been left blind.

I go from home to home and I find the cases, and I bring them to the health centre, then I treat them,” Abiyot says. But care goes further than just surgery – on the day we spend at one of the health centres Abiyot covers, he has also bought lunch for the patients treated that day, as well as the family members which come with them.

Mandido can support her family again

October 14, 2018

Mandido has lived with trachoma for the past three years, which has had a profound effect on her ability to work and support her family. Her husband suffers from a chronic illness and is unable to work meaning the 50-year-old grandma’s sight is crucial for their future.
Read full story

I remember one woman. When I found her, one of her eyes was totally blind due to trachoma; and in the second eye she was suffering again from trachoma. She refused to be treated before, and the surgeons before me tried everything. Luckily, I did everything I could to persuade her to come to the health centre, and she came and had the surgery and it went really well. Now she is OK, she’s working at daily activities. That makes me happy.

And it doesn’t just stop at the health centre – Abiyot takes his work home with him too! “I teach them – I closely follow my family and my relatives, I give them information about trachoma; to wash their hands, to wash their face two times daily, to wash their hands after visiting toilet so they’re prevented from trachoma.”

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Hard at work at the health centre

It’s very important for the entire population. People who are affected by trachoma, it has a negative impact on their daily lives – so when they get surgery and are treated well, they can go back to their daily activities. I’m very happy and I enjoy the work!"

Seeing Abiyot’s skill and dedication to his work as an Integrated Eye Care Worker is inspiring, and it’s hard to believe that he has only been in the role for two years. His impact on his community is a powerful reminder why the training that Orbis delivers is so crucial.

Thanks to people like him, we can keep boosting eye health in communities across Ethiopia. And while we have enjoyed great success there over the past 20 years, there is still a huge amount of work to be done. Over this time the population has grown from around 65 million to 105 million, putting extra strain on already overstretched resources.

Are you ready to help us train more community health care workers in all aspects of eye care, from awareness of services, identification, diagnosis, referral and treatment?

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