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Orbis Flying Eye Hospital returns to Ethiopia

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospitalan MD-10 aircraft—has returned to Addis Ababa for the fifth time to conduct a three week national ophthalmic training and surgery program from October 1 – 19, 2018, The Reporter has learnt.

Hosted by the Department of Ophthalmology, Addis Ababa University at the Menelik II Referral Hospital, the Flying Eye Hospital project aims to strengthen the capacity of eye health professionals in delivering subspecialized eye care services and residency training in the country.

The project focuses on both adult and pediatric subspecialty training, including pediatric cataract, strabismus and glaucoma, as well as adult cornea transplant, cataract, glaucoma, retina and oculoplastics. It also provides continued medical education for local ophthalmologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, biomedical engineers, and other allied eye health professionals in Ethiopia through lectures, case discussions, observation, hands-on training, workshops and symposia.

During a press briefing in Addis Ababa, Bob Ranck, President and CEO of Orbis International said over the last two decades, through the collaboration and coordination of the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia and local and international partners, the project has improved eye health system across the country.

Since 1998, Orbis has pioneered the introduction of modern cataract surgical techniques, training of the first generation of sub-specialists; introduction of pediatric eye care by opening the first three child-friendly centers at the Menelik Hospital in Addis Ababa, Hawassa and Gondar, according to the CEO. Furthermore, Orbis has developed and launched the Eye Bank of Ethiopia and  led consortium on trachoma elimination project, initiated Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental Improvement (SAFE) strategy and rural eye care, he added .

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According to the first national blindness, low vision and trachoma survey in 2006, over 1.6 million or 1.6 percent of the Ethiopian population is blind and 3.8 million or 3.7 percent live with low vision. The leading causes of blindness are cataract, corneal opacity including trachomatous cause, refractive error and glaucoma. The Global Trachoma Mapping Project (2013) estimated that Ethiopia is home to 37.5 percent of the world’s trachoma cases.

An ophthalmologist at the Orbis Flying Eye hospital, Omar Salamanca said on his part that most cases of blindness in Ethiopia are actually preventable. 

World Health Organization (WHO) as well estimates that 87 percent of blindness and 91 percent of low vision in Ethiopia is treatable or preventable with proper medical care.

Although there were successes in Ethiopia in eye care development over the past 20 years, trachoma remains one of the leading causes of blindness and low vision in Ethiopia that requires intervention. To reach the country’s target of eliminating blinding trachoma by 2020 there is still a huge amount of work to be done, said Dr. Alemayehu Sisay, Country Director of Orbis International Ethiopia.    

Contributed by Mihret Moges                                     

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