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Ethiopia is a landlocked country with natural beauty, dramatic landscapes and great cultural diversity. Tragically years of instability, drought and famine have taken their toll on the country’s development.
Most Ethiopian people live in rural areas with limited access to medical and eye health services. Extreme poverty, high rates of illness and disease, poor sanitation and a lack of clean, safe water are common issues among the population.
Ethiopia has the world’s largest burden of trachoma. More than 70 million people live in trachoma endemic areas in the country.
When The Fred Hollows Foundation started work in Ethiopia in 2013, more than 180,000 people were in urgent need of sight-saving surgery to prevent blindness. Since then, we’ve conducted more than 110,000 surgeries with 27,841 more planned this year.
In less than five years, we have achieved trachoma elimination in 16 districts and are well on the way to elimination in the remaining 249 districts where we currently work.
Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. This painful disease begins as a contagious infection similar to conjunctivitis, but with far greater consequences. Multiple infections cause the eyelashes to turn inward and painfully scrape the surface of the eye. This can cause permanent and irreversible blindness.
The condition spreads from person to person through unwashed hands, shared face-wiping cloths, and by flies that have been in contact with an infected person.
Trachoma thrives in dry and dusty environments. It is a disease of poverty, occurring where living conditions are crowded, water is scarce and sanitation is poor.
Our bold ambition to eliminate trachoma requires an innovative approach to health care delivery. We reach the most remote communities affected by trachoma by deploying small surgical teams across the country to screen for trachoma and conduct surgery, saving the sight of dozens of people each day.
This grassroots process has been extraordinarily effective. To reduce the trachoma backlog and urgently scale our work, we invest in training case finders and community health workers, and engage community leaders and teachers.
Most importantly, our work has focused on upskilling the existing health workforce to perform a simple surgery to reverse the effects of blinding trachoma.
Sight-saving surgery alleviates the immense pain caused by scratching in-turned eye-lashes and restores people’s independence to carry out the most basic activities. It provides opportunities to work and support their families, and contribute to their communities.
In addition to the mass distribution of antibiotics to stop the spread if the disease, personal hygiene and environmental improvements are key to the permanent elimination of trachoma.
Currently water access is one of the major challenges severely undermining elimination efforts in affected communities. The Foundation supports infrastructure projects to supply clean water and sanitation to communities and schools. In particular we support the development of accessible water points and latrines, waste disposal systems and public toilets to break the cycle of reinfection.
The Fred Hollows Foundation has successfully implemented the largest trachoma elimination initiative in the world. Last year we supported one in five trachoma surgeries globally.
Right now, as many as 70,000 people in Ethiopia’s Oromia region are in urgent need of sight-saving surgery to prevent them from going permanently blind. This year, we must perform 27,814 surgeries to reduce the backlog.
With your generous support, The Fred Hollows Foundation will achieve the following outputs as part of the broader project in 2019:
The Fred Hollows Foundation works in partnership with like-minded organisations and health providers to ensure the largest possible reach and impact of our sight restoring work.
In Ethiopia, we work with the Federal Ministry of Health, regional health departments and local hospitals to deliver vital sight-saving work.
The Fred Hollows Foundation’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan sets out the impact we aspire to have and how we will deliver that impact. This strategy sets ambitious targets against our disease priorities, including finally eliminating trachoma.