Improving access to eye care for women and girls in conflict zones | Orbis
Female ophthalmologists from across the Middle East work with simulation equipment during an Orbis Flying Eye Hospital training prroject in Doha, Qatar

Empowering women in conflict zones to save sight

Globally, there are 112 million more women than men living with vision loss, including blindness. Many barriers prevent both women and men from accessing eye health services, but these barriers can often be more problematic for women.

Barriers differ around the world and across communities, but a lack of education, difficulty in accessing finances, and an inability to travel mean that women and girls are disproportionately affected by blindness.

To maximize our impact and help ensure equitable access for all, Orbis has made it a priority to create training programs that directly address the additional obstacles that women and girls face in accessing healthcare.

Which is why we’re proud to report that our latest Flying Eye Hospital training project was designed specifically to empower women living in conflict-affected areas. The pilot project brought together ophthalmologists and nurses from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Training participants from the Middle East stand with Orbis Volunteer Faculty and Seymour teddy bears outside of the Flying Eye Hospital in Doha, Qatar

An amazing group of women spent a week training on board our Flying Eye Hospital.

Empowering and enhancing the skills of female eye care workers will ultimately ensure better eye care for women and girls in their communities. With better eye care comes better opportunities, better wellbeing, and more independence.

Guided by an all-women group of Volunteer Faculty, the participants worked with cutting-edge simulation devices such as virtual reality, artificial eyes, and life-like manikins to develop the skills and know-how to fight avoidable causes of vision loss like cataracts (clouding of the lens) and glaucoma (a build-up of pressure in the eye). Simulation training is proven to improve outcomes for patients. Throughout the project, 200 artificial eyes were used to hone complex surgical skills and improve outcomes for their patients back at home.

Outside of the plane, our Volunteer Faculty plus guest speakers gathered for a Women Leaders in Eye Health Coffee Hour, which was watched by our women in training, and also live streamed on Cybersight. Tune in to watch the Coffee Hour.

Orbis Volunteer Faculty, project participants and guest speakers get involved in a Women Leaders in Eye Health Coffee Hour talk at Hamad International Airport

Hot topics in eye health were discussed during our Coffee Hour.

Meet the Extraordinary Women

During the project, we were delighted to work with some exceptional women. Hear more from them below:

Thank You for Making This All Possible

A nurse and Orbis training project participant from Sudan makes the peace sign in front of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

This training opportunity couldn’t have been brought to life without the incredible support of our generous partners. A big thank you for the leadership of Qatar Fund for Development and Qatar Charity, with endorsement by the Qatari Ministry of Public Health and additional support from partners Qatar Airways, Qatar Executive, and Hamad International Airport, who generously provided on-the-ground support throughout the week. We’re also delighted to have the support of OMEGA, the title sponsor of our Flying Eye Hospital visits to the Middle East in 2022.

We’re grateful for the skills and dedication of our Volunteer Faculty, volunteer Flying Eye Hospital pilots, and team of women who are committed to fighting avoidable blindness and removing the extra barriers to access many women and girls face.

A big thank you to all our wonderful supporters. As a result of this program, many women and girls from conflict zones will now receive improved eye care. And with your continued support, we'll be able to deliver more training to improve the lives of even more women and girls.

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Help us empower more women to fight avoidable blindness!

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