Patient gets an eye exam.

Eye Bank of Ethiopia Celebrates 15 Years Treating Corneal Blindness

June 2018

Partners in eye care, Orbis International, Himalayan Cataract Project and SightLife honor milestone for the highest volume eye bank in sub-Saharan Africa

Press release

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (June 28, 2018) — Today, the Eye Bank of Ethiopia (EBE) is celebrating 15 years of service reversing corneal blindness through the collection and processing of donor corneas.

As one of the only functional national eye banks in sub-Saharan Africa, the EBE serves the entire country. Founded in 2003 by a tripartite agreement among the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, Addis Ababa City Administration Health Bureau and Orbis International Ethiopia – and governed by a Board of Trustees – the EBE and its efforts have grown. From 2003 to 2017 the EBE successfully distributed 1,818 corneas for transplant, and out of these 1,192 transplants were done in the last six years following its partnership with SightLife and Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). So far in 2018, 144 corneas have been transplanted.

The EBE was inaugurated on June 28, 2003 by H.E. past President, Girma Woldegiorgis, who pledged his own corneas to raise awareness at the inauguration.

According to the national blindness study released in 2006, it was estimated that 300,000 Ethiopians were blind due to corneal scarring. When the EBE formed, there were no corneal transplant surgeons trained in the country and Orbis, the first INGO in Ethiopia focused on sight restoration, helped blaze the trail for this to be the first transplantation facility of any kind in country. Ten surgeons were trained nationwide and currently nine are doing corneal transplants in the five regions of the country, supported by Orbis and HCP.

“Throughout the Eye Bank’s history, we have helped to ensure that those suffering from corneal blindness in Ethiopia are able to get the care they need,” said Dr. Menen Ayalew Shibeshi, Medical Director of the EBE. “Although our programs and services continue to adapt to the changing landscape, our mission to provide high-quality eye care has never wavered.”

The EBE is grounded in its commitment to work diligently to reduce the number of Ethiopians affected by corneal blindness. Currently, the EBE provides advocacy for donations, professional development for cornea specialists, care to those suffering from corneal blindness and human resource capacity building.

About Corneal Blindness

According to the World Health Organization, corneal blindness is the 4th leading cause of blindness globally (5.1%), and is one of the major causes of visual impairment after cataract, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

About Orbis International

Orbis International is a non-profit organization bringing people together to fight avoidable blindness. With our network of partners, we mentor, train and inspire local teams to fight blindness in their own communities. Orbis International-Ethiopia became legally operational in 1999 to carry out the organization's mission. Being the first country office for Orbis International, the Ethiopia Office has been working with local partners to build their capacity to provide quality eye care service, developing infrastructure, providing training to local doctors, nurses and community members, and conducting outreach services throughout our project areas.

About SightLife

Founded in 1969 and based in Seattle, Washington, SightLife is a non-profit global health organization working to prevent and eliminate corneal blindness worldwide by 2040. Sight restoration has a profound impact on recipients, their families, and their communities – no one should have to wait to experience the joy and possibilities that vision bring. With partners in more than 30 countries, SightLife is increasing the number of corneal transplants performed each year to transform millions of lives around the globe.

About The Himalayan Cataract Project

The Himalayan Cataract Project, a non-profit organization, works to eradicate preventable and curable blindness worldwide. Founded in 1995, HCP provides high-quality ophthalmic care and education and works to establish world-class eye care infrastructure in developing countries. HCP is headquartered in Waterbury, VT, with additional offices in Silver Springs, MD and Palo Alto, CA.