Breaking the cycle: Ending Trachoma in Ethiopia

Amid the pandemic, Orbis was the only NGO to fully carry out our planned mass drug administration programs to fight trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world. Faced with overwhelming obstacles, Orbis and our team of more than 19,000 community health workers and volunteers distributed over 7.5 million doses of antibiotics to people across 89 districts in Ethiopia .

Trachoma is highly contagious and spreads quickly in poverty-stricken communities. Symptoms range from uncomfortable itchy eyes to debilitating pain. Repeated infections, most often experienced by women, can lead to permanent blindness if not treated in time.

70% of all people affected by trachoma are women.

An Orbis-trained volunteer measures out a dose of antibiotics during last year's drug administration project

Trachoma paralyzes entire communities – adults unable to work, children unable to learn, and families unable to live freely. For every dose of antibiotics we give out, that person is no longer in pain or discomfort. They are no longer at risk of infecting their loved ones. They no longer need a family member to stay at home to care for them. It transforms lives.

Over the past two decades, Orbis has made huge strides in the fight to end trachoma. Through the coordinated distribution of antibiotics, we have rid whole districts of this devastating disease. But the pandemic threatened to derail all this progress. Despite the challenges we faced, it was critical to maintain the momentum we had gained over the past 20 years. An extended break in our efforts would allow the disease to regain a foothold in the communities where we had worked so hard to eliminate it.

In the middle of a pandemic, we distributed 7,553,496 doses of trachoma-fighting antibiotics, and performed 5,449 surgeries to treat trichiasis, an advanced stage of the trachoma infection where a person’s eyelids invert and scratch their eye, causing terrible pain and irreversible damage.

Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, Orbis will continue fighting trachoma in Ethiopia. In 2021, Orbis plans to distribute an additional 10 million doses of this live-changing antibiotic.

There is still time to support our End Trachoma Now campaign. We can prevent families and entire communities from catching this blinding infection.


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