Stories

Suppose someone's eye condition is not identified early enough. In that case, it can lead to irreversible visual impairment or even blindness, which can create a cycle of social exclusion, emotional trauma and economic hardship.
In Ethiopia, specialist skills and knowledge of eye health are in demand, and Orbis is there to provide those skills. We work with governments, schools, communities and eye health professionals to screen and treat those who need us to create brighter futures.

Stories of the people
you helped in 2021

Amarech Continues Running Her Own Business Again

Ten years ago, Amarech started to feel excruciating pain in both of her eyes. She noticed that opening and closing her eyes was becoming extremely uncomfortable. To reduce the pain, she was using a local eyelash-picking material called ‘worento’ for temporary relief.

But Amarech’s untreated eye condition was starting to have more serious long-term effects. She became hypersensitive towards light, couldn’t work, and stopped seeing friends and family.

As someone who had been very proud of her work—preparing a local drink called ‘Cheka’—Amarech was left feeling defeated and unable to provide the income her family needed. Her son pitched in to help by working longer days on the family farm. But his studies suffered as a result, and the family knew this couldn’t be a long-term solution.

Amarech working again after her surgery.

Thanks to Orbis supporters like you, Amarech was visited by a case finder named Ato who had been trained by Orbis. Because many people were confined to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis has been conducting door-to-door visits to ensure people who need eye care can still receive it.

During the visit Ato saw that Amarech was suffering from trichiasis, caused by repeat trachoma infections. Ato referred her to a nearby health center where she received the surgery they needed. Amarech was at risk of losing her sight altogether if she hadn't received treatment fast.

Trachoma is one of those most prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and a major focus of Orbis ’s work around the globe, particularly in rural Ethiopia, where the condition persists, and eye care can be difficult to access. With your continued support, our ultimate goal is to eliminate this leading cause of blindness around the world.

Teshager’s Future Looked Bleak - Now He's Back In School

Teshager never got up in the morning like other children in his town. He didn’t play with other kids or go to school either. The pain in his eyes and not being able to see well was too much for the six-year-old boy to bear. For Teshager and his family, their future would be a challenge! That was until our teams in Ethiopia saved his vision.

Teshager

For most of his little life, Teshager’s eyesight was plagued with issues. At two years old, he caught trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eyes, and had several repeat infections.

At the time of meeting, his family based in Wolaita, a region of Ethiopia, was struggling financially, and it was clear that Teshager was facing his own struggles. Both of his eyes were highly infected and irritated, with swelling in his upper and lower eyelids.

Teshager was suffering from trichiasis, a painful condition, caused by the repeat trachoma cases, in which scarring causes the eyelid to turn in on itself and the eyelashes to scratch the eye. For him, every blink felt like his eye was scratching sandpaper.

Trichiasis can result in permanent vision loss without timely treatment.

Just looking at Teshager, it was easy to see that he was in excruciating pain. He couldn’t easily open and close his eyes.

Teshager couldn’t stand to be around too much light. He struggled to walk and stay still. When he sat or tried to walk, he always tilted his head to a side without direct sunlight or too much brightness.

His father, Amanuel, a farmer and a fellow sufferer of repeat trachoma infections, did not want his son’s sight to hold him back in life like it did for him.

My life cycle seems to repeat itself. Thirty or so years ago, I had a similar case as my son. I had surgery, but my eyes were not as healthy as they should be. I couldn’t finish school because of my eyesight problem. I worry a lot because I don’t want my son to turn out as I did. I want him to go to school and succeed in life.

Thankfully, our teams had already caught wind of Teshager’s and Amanuel’s long-term suffering and determined the best course of treatment that would save Teshager’s sight and preserve his fathers, too. A double win!

Teshager and his family

Every year, Orbis-trained health teams are deployed to remote communities across Ethiopia, where the infectious, sight-stealing disease trachoma remains rife. The condition is highly treatable with the right kind of eye care in place.

Our efforts mean we can reach millions of people with trachoma-fighting antibiotics and refer complicated cases like Teshager’s for further treatment or surgery, relieving the burden that this neglected tropical disease has on the individuals impacted, their families, and the wider community.

Tsehay's Trachoma Infection Was Spotted Before It Was Too Late

Tsehay, 30, is a full-time mother of five. Her husband is a daily laborer on minimum wage. We met her at the Mass Drug Administration campaign in her village.

The Orbis team visited Tsehay at her house to give her and her family the sight-saving antibiotic Zithromax. After administering the drug, the team checked her eyes and noticed that she had the early signs of a trachoma infection. Even though home-to-home mass drug distribution is more time and resource consuming, one of the benefits means you can reach each and every member of the community and have a better chance of stopping trachoma in its tracks.

Tsehay's infection was spotted before it was too late to treat her eyes. Belaynesh, a Health Extension Worker, who was trained by Orbis on how to identify, treat and refer trachoma patients, gave her medication and explained how to take it.

Thanks to teams in Ethiopia, Tsehay's trachoma infection was spotted before it was too late to treat her

Belaynesh also advised her to visit the nearest health center as soon as possible. She told Tsehay that if she could not make it to the health center, they will be following up in her community shortly.

Tsehay said that it had been a while since she started to experience pain in both of her eyes. She was unable to access medical help thinking the pain will just disappear in its own time. Now that she has understood the risk of losing her sight and realizes that her eyes can be easily treated to avoid pain, she has made an appointment to visit the health center.

We'd like to thank our hard-working teams, supporters and partners for making a real and tangible difference to millions of lives in Ethiopia.

Yishamu Helps Prevent Trachoma in Her Community

Yishamu is an experienced Health Extension Worker who has been working hard to help prevent the spread of blinding trachoma in her community for more than a decade.

Orbis-trained Health Extension Worker, Yishamu, measures out a dose of trachoma-fighting antibiotics.

Ten years ago, Yishamu became one of the first Health Extension Workers trained through the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. As a Health Extension Worker, Yishamu works to improve the health and well-being of families, particularly women and children, throughout the Konso Zone. She conducts routine examinations and check-ups, and provides vital health education, including the importance of good hygiene practices.

“We vis­it each and every mem­ber of our com­mu­ni­ty as assigned to teach them about var­i­ous health issues, includ­ing eye health care. We most­ly focus on pre­ven­tion. We have also had var­i­ous addi­tion­al train­ings orga­nized by Orbis on per­son­al hygiene, tra­choma iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and patient referral.”

As a Health Extension Worker, Yishamu plays a critical role in preventing the spread of blinding trachoma in her community.

Yishamu and her team of Health Extension Workers and community volunteers visit each and every home in their assigned community to distribute trachoma fighting antibiotics, examine people for signs of active trachoma infection or trichiasis, and deliver critical health information and education on how to limit the spread of the disease.

Yishamu gives out doses of Zithromax, an effective antibiotic used to prevent and treat trachoma.

We are incredibly fortunate to have selfless and compassionate people like Yishamu who have dedicated their lives to freeing their communities from the burden of blinding trachoma. On behalf of Orbis and the tens of thousands of people who have been saved from a lifetime of blindness, we say thank you!