Of Ethiopia's more than 85 million inhabitants, approximately 1.28 million are blind. Cataract, a condition that can be treated through relatively routine surgery, accounts for almost 50 per cent of this blindness.
The Foundation is beginning its blindness prevention work in Ethiopia through a partnership arrangement with the Austrian organisation, Light for the World - Christoffel Development Cooperation. Light for the World has an established presence in the country, and together we have launched the Simien Mountains Eye Care Project (SMEP) in the northern Amhara Regional State, 400km north of the capital.
With only 104 ophthalmologists in the country, the majority of whom are based in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, access to eye health services is limited for people living in rural and remote areas.
Working together with our partner, The Foundation:
- Performed 19 cataract operations and seven other sight saving or improving interventions
- Screened 889 people
- Trained two nurses
- Contributed to a food relief program for 22,740 people in two regions as the country’s hunger crisis worsened in November.
About the Program
The SMEP will initially focus on establishing, equipping and staffing an ophthalmic unit at the hospital in the town of Debark. The Foundation is providing funding to equip the hospital’s eye unit, including the purchase of a static microscope, a portable microscope, and a range of other modern eye equipment.
We will also support the hospital’s administration to organise outreach campaigns which involve medical teams visiting villages in remote areas to inform the community about the new service, screen patients, and set up the referral process for surgery at the Debark Hospital.
Whenever necessary, patients will also be transferred to the university teaching hospital in Gondar, about 100km from Debark, to receive any additional care.
The SMEP is The Foundation’s first project in Ethiopia and there are plans to increase support for blindness prevention activities throughout the country.
Facts and figures
|Number of blind people||1.28 million blind and a further 2.96 million with low vision|
|Main causes of blindness||Cataract (50%), trachoma (11.5%), corneal scarring (8%), refractive error (8%) and glaucoma (5%)|
|Number of people with cataract blindness||638,720 (backlog)|
|Number of cataract operations performed annually||27,850 in 2009 (approximately 335 operations, per million people, per year)|
|Number of ophthalmologists||about 104 with another 46 cataract surgeons|
|Reasons for low cataract surgical rates and backlog||Lack of eye health infrastructure, consumables and equipment and a shortage of eye health personnel|
|Childhood eye health||9 million children aged 1-9 years with active trachoma|
|Life expectancy||56.1 years|
|Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||69|
|Adult Literacy rate||35.9%|
|Population living on $1.25 a day||39%|
|Population which is undernourished||44%|
|Number of doctors (per 10,000 people)||< 0.5|
Source: National Five-Year Strategic Plan for Eye Health in Ethiopia 2003-2007 EC (2010/11 – 2014/15), Government of Ethiopia, UNDP Human Development Report 2010
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