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Saving Meskenem’s sight with a simple screening

October 2018

To celebrate two decades of sight-saving work in Ethiopia we’re sharing stories of the lives being transformed thanks to the Orbis family. This time round we're introduced to a sweet little girl called Meskenem, who has been living with blinding trachoma-like symptoms for a whole year.

20 Years Ethiopia Logo

Little Meskenem is just four years old. When we first meet her, she is clinging tightly to her older brother, Gabriel’s, hand as she walks into the screening room at Karat District Hospital. Her eyes are red-rimmed, and teary, and she rubs them constantly. She looks uncomfortable.

Although it is specifically a cataract-screening program, Mr Tilahun the cataract surgeon, runs a quick check-up. Her brother explains that she has had lots of tearing and discharge, and that it is very itchy for her; which is why she can’t stop touching her eyes. She has been like this for a year.

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Cataract surgeon Mr Tilahun believes Meskenem could be suffering from trachoma

Mr Tilahun believes it is a mixed infection, with suspected trachoma. He explains to Gabriel how important it is to go to Arba Minch (another city in Ethopia) for a full diagnosis from an ophthalmologist, to ensure that Meskenem is treated correctly.

Blinding trachoma is bacterial eye infection and one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide. If left untreated, trachoma develops into trachomatous trichiasis, which turns the eyelids inwards, meaning eyelashes scrape the eyeball, causing permanent scarring to the cornea.

If it is blinding trachoma she has, and if left untreated, the disease causes scarring to the eyelid that makes the eyelashes turn inward.

As they left, Gabriel promised to take her to Arba Minch as soon as possible – and hopefully after a year of suffering, Meskenem will get the treatment she needs.

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Imagine that with every blink, Meskenem's eyelashes are scraping against her eye causing her intense pain

We've been working in Ethiopia improving the quality of eye care and outcomes for children experiencing vision loss

Thanks to the generous help of our supporters, we are able to ensure that children experiencing painful vision like Meskenem can be screened and treated before it’s too late.

In the 20 years we’ve been in Ethiopia, we've delivered more than 2.25 million eye screenings and examinations and nearly 25 million medical treatments including around 170,000 surgeries for adults and 6000 for children.

In Ethopia...

None of these successes would have been possible without the incredible support and collaboration from our partners, donors and supporters.

But with the population of Ethiopia having doubled since 1998 from 68 to 105 million, the country is still facing a shortage of qualified opthamologists. Currently there are only five academic institutions offering 25 residents in ophthalmology training each year - this is simply not enough to fight blindness in the country.

We need further support to train the next generation of eye health specialists as we invest in training programs so that more children like Meskenem can get the treatment they need.

Can you help provide a brighter future for Ethiopia?

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