The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) are providing funding to international eye care charity Orbis, to launch the Qatar Creating Vision initiative Ethiopia. The work will help tackle the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, trachoma, whilst delivering over 300,000 services, including screenings, distributing antibiotics, providing spectacles, and conducting surgeries, to communities. 

Trachoma is highly contagious, but it is easily preventable and treatable through the World Health Organisation’s SAFE strategy: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, Environmental improvements. In rural Ethiopia, the burden of the disease remains high, as medical support can be hard to reach and through repeated episodes of the infection in adults, painful blinding trachoma (trichiasis) can develop. 

Thanks to the generous support of QFFD, Orbis aims to cross over the elimination threshold of the disease in several areas in the Gedeo zone and Amaro and Burji woredas, through Mass Drug Administrations, and outreach to educate on symptoms and behavioral change, including the importance of hand and face washing, and the completion of surgeries.

To ensure the necessary human resources are in place, the programme will feature training for eye health personnel to identify and undertake surgery on those with blinding trachoma. Additionally, Orbis will conduct a survey, which will be essential to informing the necessary next steps to come one step closer to eliminating trachoma.

The work being undertaken will also strengthen eye care facilities to provide for patients with other sight loss issues.

HE Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General of Qatar Fund for Development, said: “Many people are not aware of the threat of vision problems on communities, particularly in politically and economically threatened or remote areas. QFFD has a long-standing commitment to drive forward a wide range of initiatives that will strengthen healthcare provision to disadvantaged communities around the world. We are proud to support Orbis in the initiative for Ethiopia to strengthen the health care facilities that offers ophthalmology care for the Ethiopian communities.”

Between 2016 and 2020 in India and Bangladesh, thanks to the Qatar Fund for Development’s vital support, Orbis and their partners provided more than 6 million eye tests and treatments, mainly to children. The launch of the initiative in Ethiopia is the first activity of what is being termed Phase Two. 

Dr Robert Walters, Chairman of Orbis in the Middle East said: “Trachoma is a terrible infection, which causes an immense amount of pain. However, it can be treated and prevented. It also affects many more women than men – 70%, so it is crucial to deliver programmes which address this imbalance.”

“We’re committed to working with our partners in Ethiopia to find and provide those with the disease, and other sight loss issues, with the care they need. Thanks to QFFD, we will be able to continue our long-standing work in the region. Through their generosity, we’ve already achieved so much together during Phase One of Qatar Creating Vision in India and Bangladesh. We’re excited to continue our journey as we look at ways to drive down the incidence of avoidable blindness together in more locations.”