Patients in Ethiopia receive treatment for Trachoma during a Mass Drug Administration in December 2020

COVID-19 one year later: a look back at the challenges and how we’ve adapted — with your help

The pandemic has stopped so much, but it hasn't stopped our mission. We've leaned on our history of innovation to help local communities fight blindness and keep families safe during COVID-19. And our supporters have been with us every step of the way! Join us for a look back at some of the successes in what has been a challenging year for us all.

A Year of Prioritizing Health Needs

One year ago in Brunei, Dr. Helena Hurairah performed cataract surgery on a baby. The very next day, she was deployed to a coronavirus testing center, where she swabbed to find COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Hurairah, a member of the Orbis Volunteer Faculty, had made plans to be in Zambia with the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. But with the trip's postponement due to COVID-19, she gave back in different ways.

“Like many of you, I had an awesome year mapped out," she told Orbis supporters. "But life doesn’t always go as planned. And that’s OK. Because we’re all exactly where we need to be — doing exactly what we need to be doing in our collective fight against COVID-19."

Dr. Hurairah spent three months on the front lines of the pandemic. Alongside other healthcare professionals, she helped contain the virus in her home country.

Dr. Helena Hurairah has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei

One year ago, Dr. Helena Hurairah changed roles to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei.

Dr. Hurairah's generosity went even further. She created training modules on the foundations of ophthalmology. The courses were shared with the Zambian doctors who would have trained on board the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.

Like Dr. Hurairah, we had to change course quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Flying Eye Hospital unable to travel, we embraced the power of technology. And thanks to the entire Orbis family, we kept our fight against avoidable blindness going strong… even in the face of new challenges.

Cybersight Keeps Eye Care Professionals Connected and Learning

When eye care professionals get the training and mentoring they need, patients get the quality eye care they deserve. But the pandemic has disrupted eye care training like never before. Orbis’s Cybersight has kept the future of eye care in focus, even during these difficult times.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, more eye care professionals than ever turned to Cybersight. Dr. Nancy Nansalmaa from a children’s hospital in Mongolia is a Cybersight mentee of Dr. Daniel Neely, an Orbis Volunteer Faculty member.

Dr. Neely observed and guided Dr. Nansalmaa’s sight-saving surgery from halfway around the world. “She did a beautiful job with a pediatric glaucoma surgery that she had only done a couple of times before,” Dr. Neely said. “She watched videos of me doing the same surgery in advance, and I was able to watch her operate through a video feed from her microscope — and we could also talk to each other in real-time.”

Dr. Daniel Neely virtually mentors Dr. Nancy Nansalamaa in Mongolia from his house in the USA, using Cybersight

Dr. Neely mentors Dr. Nansalmaa from his home during COVID-19, thanks to Orbis's Cybersight service.

Thank you, Dr. Neely and all our Volunteer Faculty and local partners. You are such valued members of the Orbis family! We appreciate that you share your expert skills and passion with the next generation of eye surgeons. They are fortunate to learn from you through amazing webinars and mentorship.

And thanks to people like you, and our wonderful donors, we can continue to work in partnership to deliver sight-saving training in communities around the world.

The Impact of Cybersight In 2020

A record-breaking number of eye care professionals have turned to Cybersight to stay connected and learn during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Flying Eye Hospital Goes Virtual

For nearly four decades, the Flying Eye Hospital has traveled the world. It’s delivered best-in-class training for eye care professionals in areas with the greatest need.

When it became clear that the Flying Eye Hospital would be unable to travel last year, we knew it was critical to keep our mission in flight.

For too many people around the world, where they were born still determines whether they can see the blackboard in school... their tools on the job... or the faces of the people they love. Getting training to eye care teams everywhere brings us one step closer to a world without avoidable blindness.

Watch how our team reimagined Flying Eye Hospital training as a virtual program during COVID-19. This work is transforming how sight-saving training is being delivered — even after the pandemic is over.

Thanks to your support and the hard work of our Flying Eye Hospital team, we've been able to pivot our in-person training sessions and take our sight-saving work online.

This means our network of world-leading Volunteer Faculty was able to deliver expert training to the eye health communities that need it most - even during a pandemic.

Practice Makes Perfect: Simulation Training

In-person training opportunities for eye care professionals are few and far between during the pandemic. But Orbis’s simulation training is enabling them to develop and refine their skills safely.

Simulation devices — like virtual reality, artificial eyes, and life-like mannequins — help build skills. Eye care professionals can practice each step as many times as they need to get it right... something that is not possible with an actual patient. And during a pandemic, it’s literally the only type of training you can do while social distancing!

Thanks to your support, the Orbis team can continue to deliver training safely, meaning more people across the world can benefit from sight-saving treatment!

Dr. Jinal Gore – a third-year ophthalmology resident at Dr Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital India – uses simulation training to develop the skills she needs to treat patients safely in her community.

Fighting Blindness and Saving Lives During Covid-19

The dedication of the entire Orbis family has remained unparalleled throughout the pandemic. Our donors give us hope every day as we work towards a world free from preventable blindness. Here are a few heartwarming successes from the past year.

Dr. Andrew Choyce

Orbis Staff Anesthesiologist

Know­ing that our com­mu­ni­ty cares so much is tru­ly heart­warm­ing. I wish every­one hap­pi­ness and good health!”
Dr. Andrew Choyce fighting COVID-19 in London, UK

Dr. Choyce has been using his specialist skills to fight COVID-19 on the front lines, working in ICUs and saving lives.

Orbis Partner Hospital Delivers Relief Packages

In the early days of the pandemic the staff from Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, one of our partners in India, went above and beyond in their response to COVID-19.

Many of their patients are vulnerable groups and lost their ability to earn money during the pandemic. Eye health workers handed out more than 11,500 food packages in only a few weeks. These packages contained essentials like rice, flour and potatoes, ensuring that families did not go hungry.

A big well done to these health workers! It was wonderful to see everyone pulling together in such difficult times. Your work is truly inspiring.

When the health workers weren't on hospital duty, they continued to help by delivering food and sanitation packs to neighbors.

Orbis Team Protects Millions From Trachoma's Spread

Despite overwhelming obstacles, our teams in Ethiopia fought the spread of trachoma during COVID-19. Trachoma is an infectious, blinding disease and the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation in southern Ethiopia.

We knew that if we could not deliver the doses of the antibiotic, years of progress to eradicate trachoma in the region might have been set back. To move ahead with the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) and Screening Program, we needed to reimagine how we would deliver the medicine to account for COVID-19 safety precautions.

So outreach workers went door-to-door to administer the medication. Delivering the treatment to people's homes took longer and cost more. Thanks to our wonderful donors and partners, the massive undertaking became reality.

Thanks to the determination of the entire Orbis team, 7.5 million people in southern Ethiopia were treated in a COVID-safe manner. We are so proud of the team’s efforts to rid their communities of this contagious eye disease.

Bekelech, a Health Extension Worker in Ethiopia, helps treat 7.5 million people in just a few weeks to prevent trachoma's spread.

Bekelech, a Health Extension Worker in Ethiopia, was part of the Orbis team that treated 7.5 million people in just a few weeks. Here, she measures the medicine used to prevent trachoma's spread.

A World of Endless Possibilities for Marla

Little Marla from Mongolia was born with congenital cataracts. If she hadn't received surgery at an Orbis-supported hospital, she would have suffered permanent vision loss. Orbis-trained surgeon Dr. Murat performed the surgery when Marla was only 42 days old. Marla became the youngest person in Mongolian history to receive cataract surgery.

Marla is tested every six months to make sure her sight stays healthy.

Marla gets her regular eye exam at the local Orbis partner hospital in Mongolia

Marla is just one member of the generations of children who can now grow up to lead independent lives with healthy sight.​

Orbis's Support Helps Keep People Safe in Bangladesh

Challenging times can bring out the very best in people. This is true for the staff at Orbis partner Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital in Bangladesh. They worked to ensure urgent eye care continued in a COVID-safe manner at the Orbis-supported Vision Center. They also stepped up to provide food and hand sanitizers to people all across their community.

We send our warmest thanks to the staff for their dedication to the health and safety of their community! We're very proud of our partnership, and we look forward to working closely with them again in the near future.

Hospital staff members were trained to promote good handwashing practices, physical distancing, and masks to help combat the virus.

Vision Vans Bring Eye Care to Patients' Doorsteps

Urgent eye care cannot wait for a pandemic to end. The Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Center in India, an Orbis partner, brought emergency eye care to the doorsteps of patients who needed it most. The team screened and diagnosed emergency cases on board the Vision Van.

A child gets an eye screening on the Vision Van in India

Eye care teams use Vision Vans to help deliver urgent eye care during the pandemic.

Thank You for Standing Strong With Us

Your support is making a lasting impact. The eye health professionals you’ve helped us train and the tools you’ve helped us build continue to save sight and transform lives.

Thank you for believing in the power of changing the way the world sees — especially in a time when the world has faced uncertainty like never before.

We wish we could give you a big hug! Together, we will get through the COVID-19 pandemic and win the fight against avoidable blindness.

Saving Sight in the "New Normal" — and How You Can Help

A spirit of innovation has always characterized Orbis. This spirit and your support have allowed us to swiftly adapt to the new challenges caused by COVID-19.

This year has seen the very best of the Orbis family. But the full impact of the pandemic on blindness and vision loss is not yet clear. All indicators are that urgent cases are rising and health systems are overwhelmed.

What's more, these conditions may be more advanced due to the delay in diagnosis and treatment. This means that already-urgent eye care needs are only growing.

The past year was a difficult one, but we'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to you for being there when we needed you most. We send our best wishes to you and your loved ones. Together, we will get through these hard times.


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