Ethiopia flag.

Celebrating 20 Years in Ethiopia

October 2018

This month marks the conclusion of our 20 Year Anniversary in Ethiopia. The Flying Eye Hospital is currently conducting its fifth program in Addis Ababa and we used it as a focal point to bring together special guests, host various high-profile events and World Sight Day activities, highlighting successes and thanking our partners.

Flying Eye Hospital in Ethiopia

We had a lot of events packed into three weeks. The Eye Bank celebrated their 15 Year Anniversary event on October 4, we hosted an opening ceremony, conducted World Sight Day activities and launched the Amharic language edition of the Singing Tree, all while training local doctors, nurses and healthcare workers during the packed Flying Eye Hospital program.

These celebrations are underpinned by two decades of ground-breaking achievement. Simply put, the Ethiopian eye health landscape has fundamentally shifted because of the work we have done.

Most of us know the Ethiopia team for trachoma elimination but their impact runs much deeper: including training, governance and health system strengthening programs from urban hospitals to rural eye care clinics.

Orbis’s work has improved eye care in Ethiopia in five key areas:

1. Introduced of modern cataract surgical techniques, (ECCE-PC-IOL) which paved the way to Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery, which is now the standard practice in Ethiopia.

2. Trained the first generation of sub-specialists. Through regular training and fellowships, the country now has 27 specialists and 148 ophthalmologists, back in 1998 there were just 54 ophthalmologists and no subspecialist. Together with partners, we also introduced optometry to the country as a vital component in eye health services. There are now 361 qualified optometrists in Ethiopia.

3. Introduced Pediatric Eye Care with the opening of the first three child-friendly facilities. The first opened in 2002 in Menelik II Hospital, Addis Ababa. Two more Pediatric Eye Health Centers have been opened in Hawassa and Gondar in 2012.

4. Opened the Eye Bank of Ethiopia which is the only certified Eye Bank in Sub-Saharan Africa, besides South Africa, to provide cornea tissue harvesting and storage, as well as corneal transplant surgery. Since 2003, 1,818 corneal transplants have taken place.

5. Trachoma elimination and SAFE strategy efforts in rural areas have shown positive results. Today we work in 93 districts in Southern Ethiopia, treating 12 million people with Mass Drug Administration with different rounds of Zithromax. Currently 24 of these districts have reduced active trachoma infection to below the World Health Organization's elimination threshold of 5%.

Orbis has also developed comprehensive rural eyecare programs to complement trachoma outreach providing basic eye screening and health checks. We have distributed 44.5 million doses of Zithromax during our years of SAFE strategy implementation, click here to read more about our trachoma work.

Orbis has contributed to institutional development, equipment maintenance and published over 100 peer reviewed research articles.

None of this would be possible without the support and partnership of the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health and the Ethiopia Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia, as well as numerous international and local partners, and volunteer faculty. Together we have had a significant impact on blindness prevention and improved eye health services for the Ethiopian people. We are also incredibly proud of our Ethiopian staff- we look forward to seeing what is possible in the next 20 years!