Young child with cataract in Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Flying Eye Hospital project wrap-up

The Flying Eye Hospital and our family of staff, crew and Volunteer Faculty have completed a hugely successful and energizing three-week program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It’s been an amazing few weeks taking in World Sight Day and celebrating our 20th anniversary of sight saving work in this beautiful country.

The Flying Eye Hospital on the runway at Addis Ababa Bole Airport.

Thanks to the sponsorship of our partner Alcon Foundation, our local partners (Federal Ministry of Health and the Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia) and our dedicated Volunteer Faculty we were able to host a three-week training program, sharing skills and knowledge with local teams to help improve the quality of eye care available for generations to come.

Opening Ceremony

The Honorable Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister, Federal Minister of Health attended the opening ceremony where our CEO Bob Ranck gave an impassioned speech about the importance of collaboration in improving eye care in Ethiopia.

The Flying Eye hospital was covered on BBC Amharic News

The Flying Eye Hospital proved what a pivotal awareness raising tool it is by attracting not only government officials but a host of state media too, including the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.

World Sight Day

On World Sight Day we asked the Orbis family to help spread awareness of eye care by telling the world why it was important to them. Click here to find out more about the #WhyICare campaign.

We were also thrilled to launch the Singing Tree in Amharic on World Sight Day. The Singing Tree is a free illustrated storybook designed to encourage school children to seek help if they are living with poor vision. Read more here.

20 Years Fighting Blindness

During the Flying Eye Hospital visit we also celebrated our 20 year anniversary of sight saving work in Ethiopia.

Watch & share this video celebrating 20 years of our work in Ethiopia

We set up our very first program office in Addis Ababa in 1998, and joined local partners in:

  • Introducing modern cataract surgical techniques
  • Training the first generation of eye sub-specialists
  • Introducing pediatric eye care by opening the first three child-friendly centers at Menelik Hospital, and in the cities of Hawassa and Gondar
  • Developing and launching the Eye Bank of Ethiopia
  • Leading the consortium for a trachoma elimination project, initiating SAFE (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement) strategy and rural eye care infrastructure

Bob Ranck

President and CEO, Orbis International

Over the last two decades, through exten­sive col­lab­o­ra­tion and coor­di­na­tion with the Fed­er­al Min­istry of Health, OSE and our incred­i­ble net­work of local and inter­na­tion­al part­ners, we have con­tributed to build­ing a vast­ly improved eye health sys­tem across the coun­try, sav­ing the sight of mil­lions of Ethiopi­an people”

Stay tuned for more news from Ethiopia as the eye care community ramp up efforts to eliminate blinding trachoma and transform the lives of millions of Ethiopians.

Sharing Skills

Thanks to the sponsorship by Alcon Foundation, this program focused on both adult and pediatric subspecialty training, including pediatric cataract, strabismus and glaucoma, as well as adult cornea transplant, cataract, glaucoma, retina and oculoplastics.

Local teams received hands-on training aboard the Flying Eye Hospital

We welcomed teams from local hospitals who participated in live surgery, lectures in the plane’s on-board classroom, workshops and wet lab training. We had around 207 local professionals on board, examined or consulted 190 patients and performed surgery or laser treatment on 102 people. All of the surgery was broadcast in the plane's classroom and they have been uploaded to our award-winning telehealth platform, Cybersight, as teaching materials for eye doctors all over the world for free.

Local teams watch live surgery in 3D on board the plane's classroom

A Special Guest

We were honored to welcome Brook Yeshitila onto the plane, a famous local artist and an ambassador of the Eye Bank of Ethiopia. Brook has pledged his own cornea to the Eye Bank and uses his influence to encourage others to follow.

Brook Yeshitila with the crew and Eye Bank staff on the Flying Eye Hospital

When Brook was 18 years old, he slowly and unexpectedly became paralyzed from the waist down until it eventually affected his whole body except for his arms. Luckily Brook received surgery 4 years ago and can now walk again with the help a walking aid.

It was pleasure to meet such an inspirational figure dedicating so much of his time to the fight against blindness.

First-time volunteer Dr. Charith Fonseka, Sri Lanka (second from right) with his surgical team

And finally, we’d like to say another big thank you to the 28 Volunteer Faculty who kindly donated their time and expertise to help train and teach colleagues in Ethiopia. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

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