Health clinic nurse comforts young patient.

Orbis and Irish Aid

May 2019

Orbis Ireland and the Irish Government have a history of working together successfully. Together, our aim is to eliminate the threat of avoidable blindness in Ethiopia, restore sight, where possible, and build a legacy of quality eye care that will ensure no one goes needlessly blind in the future.

Three-year funding

Orbis Ireland has received a three-year grant from the Irish Aid Civil Society Fund which will fund the following project:

Trachoma Elimination, Cataract Services and Comprehensive Eye Care in Gamo Gofa, Derashe, Konso, Alle and Dawuro Zones of SNNPR, Ethiopia.

The three leading causes of blindness and visual impairment in Ethiopia are cataract, refractive error and blinding trachoma – an infection which, if left untreated, can lead to trichiasis, a painful condition in which the eyelids turn inwards so the lashes scrape the cornea, resulting in blindness.

Over the next three years, the Irish Aid grant will help us to establish vital eye health services in a region of 3.4 million people in southern Ethiopia, ensuring that even more eye care workers are trained and more people with avoidable blinding conditions treated.

A Successful History

This isn’t our first time to receive funding from Irish Aid. In fact, we have a successful history of working together.

Since 2007, Irish Aid has supported Orbis Ireland’s goal to eliminate blinding trachoma in the Gamo Gofa, Derashe, Konso and Alle areas of Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples Region of Ethiopia. Prior to Orbis’ intervention, trachoma was endemic in all 18 rural districts in the region.

With the support of Irish Aid Civil Society funding, Orbis has implemented the World Health Organisation’s SAFE strategy and has enhanced local government’s capacity to manage treatment of eye diseases through intensive training and capacity-building initiatives, health systems strengthening and community engagement.

In just over a decade, Orbis significantly reduced the prevalence of blinding trachoma in a population of 2.7 million people. An external evaluation in 2016 and follow-up trachoma impact surveys in 2018, found that the project was successful in achieving its targets of reducing the prevalence of Trachoma infection to the World Health Organisation elimination threshold in 14 of the 18-original intervention woredas.

The evaluation concluded that it was highly likely that the combined achievements of the project have contributed to wider health and well-being impacts and positive economic benefits.

In 2017, the scope of the original project was broadened to include cataract services and RE screening. The inclusion of these services will ensure that the three main causes of preventable blindness and visual impairment are being addressed, maximising impact.

In 2018, a geographical expansion commenced into Dawuro Zone, SNNPR. The total population covered by the existing and expanded project will be 3.4 million.

With the continued support of Irish Aid, Orbis will:

  1. Reduce trachoma infection to less than 5% (WHO threshold for elimination) among children aged 1-9 in all woredas.
  1. Reduce blinding trachoma to less than 0.2% (WHO threshold for elimination) in all woredas
  2. Establish surveillance programmes in accordance with WHO guidelines in those woredas where Orbis currently operates and has reached the threshold for elimination of blinding trachoma
  3. Implement the SAFE strategy in all six woredas in Dawuro Zone, where trachoma is endemic
  4. Establish cataract services and RE screening in all project areas
  5. Deliver specialist training, in partnership with local hospitals, public health agencies and government, in primary eye care and detection and treatment of TT, cataract and RE

Irish Aid Civil Society Fund

Irish Aid has a long history of supporting Irish civil society organisations working in the developing world. The Civil Society Fund is Irish Aid’s main project funding scheme. Applications are accepted on an annual basis from Irish and invited international civil society organisations to carry out development projects of between one and three years in duration.