ORBIS International

ORBIS has worked in 87 countries, enhanced the skills of over 262,000 health care personnel and helped establish services that have provided quality eye care treatment to more than 12.5 million people.

ORBIS International prevents and treats blindness by providing quality eye care to transform lives. We envision a world in which no one is needlessly blind, where quality eye care, education and treatment are available to every human being. ORBIS provides the tools, training and technology necessary for local partners to assess their needs and develop workable and lasting solutions to the tragedy of unnecessary blindness. By building their long-term capabilities, ORBIS helps its partner institutions take action to reach a state where they can provide, on their own, quality eye care services that are affordable, accessible and sustainable.  

Since its first program in 1982, ORBIS has worked in 87 countries, enhanced the skills of over 262,000 health care personnel and helped establish services that have provided quality eye care treatment to more than 12.5 million people.

ORBIS programs have expanded both in scale and scope over the past decade. Our portfolio now includes more than 100 multi-year projects running simultaneously and managed in six country/regional program locations; an average of eight Flying Eye Hospital programs annually; an ophthalmic telemedicine-based initiative; utilization of more than 500 volunteer medical professionals in our education and training efforts; and large scale public awareness and advocacy campaigns. Through a needs-based approach, ORBIS builds the capacity of its partners in multiple areas of ophthalmic care including cataract surgery, trachoma control, pediatric ophthalmology, eye banks, rural eye care and related essential interventions such as outreach, screening and referral.  

ORBIS Ethiopia accomplishments in trachoma control

Trachoma is the second leading cause of blindness in Ethiopia next to cataract. According to the national survey conducted in 2006, it accounts for 11.5% of all blindness and 7.7% of people with low vision. It is estimated that more than 138,000 people in Ethiopia are blinded by trachoma.

The average prevalence rate of active trachoma (AT) in children age 1-9 is 40% for the whole country.  It is fourfold higher in rural children than urban due to poor sanitation and inadequate water supply. Over 9 million children aged 1-9 years have active infection.

Prevalence of Trachomatous Trichiasis (TT), a chronic form of trachoma, is estimated to be 3.1% for the country. This means there are an estimated 1.3 million people age 15 and older who are at immediate risk of blindness unless treated urgently in the country.

In the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), where ORBIS implements its rural program and trachoma control initiatives, the prevalence is even higher.  Based on evidence generated from district baseline trachoma surveys in ORBIS supported rural project areas, the prevalence of active trachoma ranges from 22% to 56% and that of trachomatous trichiasis from 1.1% to 6.4%.

Along with various organizations, ORBIS has played an important role in introducing mass distribution of Zithromax® into Ethiopia.  In 2002 ORBIS collaborated with ITI, the government, various international NGOs and the BBC World Service Trust to implement the full SAFE strategy in one woreda in West Gurage. This was a ground-breaking development for the country in its quest toward the global elimination of blinding trachoma by 2020.

The SAFE strategy has subsequently been expanded to contiguous zones of Kembata-Tembaro, Wolayita and Gamo Gofa, Konso, Derashe and Halaba special woredas with total estimated population of 6 million. In these projects ORBIS has used an approach of building the capacity of local partners to implement the SAFE package. As a result, over the last 11 years, ORBIS has:

  • Trained more than 328 nurses on primary eye care, including trichiasis surgery, and supplied all the necessary ophthalmic equipment and supplies to provide regular primary eye care services and perform trichiasis surgery.
  • Established more than 90 Primary Eye Care Units (PECUs) that can provide regular primary eye care services including trichiasis surgeries in four zones. Through these PECUs, over 628,800 patients have been examined for various eye diseases, and surgery has been performed on over 129,500 TT patients.
  • Trained/retrained over 13,976 various community volunteers (community health agents, leaders of women’s groups, teachers and health extension workers) on the ‘F’ and ‘E’ components of the SAFE strategy.  These ORBIS trained stakeholders educate the community about the importance of hand and face washing practices. These health education programs conducted in the communities has brought about improved knowledge on trachoma and how to prevent it. Community volunteers have also played a key role in screening and referring TT patients to health facilities for treatment.
  • Worked in partnership with WaterAid Ethiopia in hygiene, sanitation and water development in Konso special woreda. To date, over 30,000 people living in Konso and 16,000 people living in Dita woreda have better access to safe water for face and hand washing.  ORBIS is exploring ways to expand similar WASH programs in other parts of Gamo Gofa.
  • Constructed 81 communal latrines in schools and in Konso special woreda where there is a problem of space for individual household latrine construction.
  • Rehabilitated 9 non-functional water schemes through ORBIS support to serve 16,000 people.
  • Conducted 25 district/woreda baseline and impact trachoma surveys for evidence based intervention.
  • Distributed 7,600,712 doses of Zithromax® in 25 districts (woredas).
  • Developed a more focused project for the Gamo Gofa, Konso and Derashe sector with the objective of eliminating blinding trachoma in a specified time period.  Conducted more than 26 research projects on trachoma and trachoma related topics. Most of this research was published in renowned international journals.