Birketo can see his grandson again

December 2018

As we’re celebrating two decades of sight-saving work in Ethiopia we’re sharing stories of the lives being transformed thanks to the Orbis family. One of the people we caught up with is Birketo. He was almost totally blind for three years but thanks to an Orbis-sponsored cataract program he can now see again.

20 years in Ethiopia logo

Birketo believes he is around 80 years old and is a farmer. Unfortunately, he can no longer work and make a living due to his sight. His sons had to help him out and until recently he spent his days at home. “I can’t go here or there,” he explained to us. “It is very difficult for me. The only thing I can do is hear. Even my family hand feed me.”

Birketo heard about the screening when it was announced in his community of Gamo Gofa. He told us: “The government announced that doctors are coming to help and give some medication, and service.”

He was brought to the district hospital along with dozens of other patients from the surrounding communities to be screened for cataract and – if diagnosed – operated on in the hope of restoring his sight.

4 million people in Ethiopia are blind or visually impaired. Cataracts are the leading cause affecting some 1.7 million people

When we first met him his is head was wrapped in a bandage, speckled with blood above his left eye. His son was leading him and unable to see, he fell. His vision was a real struggle for him.

Birketo was diagnosed with bilateral cataract and sent for surgery where his right eye was operated on.

Following the operation Birketo assured us that he wasn’t in any pain and very hopeful that he would be able to see again. He said: “I hope to see one more time.”

His nine-year-old grandson, Atateso, and health workers were in the room waiting nervously as Birketo’s bandages were removed.

Birketo couldn't see for three years due to a bilateral cataract

The doctor asked if he can see who was is in front him. Birketo exclaimed: “I know him! That’s my grandson!” Everyone in the room was overjoyed. Once the doctor performed all of the necessary checks, we got to speak to Birketo, who was doing well – if a little overwhelmed!

I can see,” he tells us. “They showed me the kid! I’m very happy. I’m looking forward to what I can see…. So I’m very happy.”

When we ask him how it felt to see his grandson, he finds it difficult to explain, simply saying, “It felt amazing…happy.”

It’s incredible to see the effect this routine surgery has had on Birketo, and how happy he and his grandson are. He added: “I want to see all the community, the people that I know before, after three years. I can identify my friends I see by calling his name… I want to call [someone] by name.”

Birketo said: “I say thank you to you.”

Birketo is delighted to see his grandson Atateso again

Thanks to the generous help of our supporters, we can ensure that we can treat people like Birketo and fight preventable blindness.

Four million people in Ethiopia are blind or visually impaired. Cataracts are the leading cause, affecting some 1.7 million people. The country also accounts for 30 percent of trachoma in sub-Saharan African countries, or 1.2 million people.

With only 130 ophthalmologists in the country, there is a severe shortage of eye health professionals.

While we have enjoyed great successes in Ethiopia over the past 20 years, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done to further improve the quality of eye care.

Can you help provide a brighter future for Ethiopia?

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