Bekelech is a Health Extension Worker and has received training from both the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Orbis. The several trainings that Bekelech has received from Orbis focused on trachoma trichiasis, the causes of trachoma, it's treatment and how to prevent the infection.

I feel good about my job. I get sat­is­fac­tion from it. Since my line of work focus­es on pre­ven­tion actions, it gives me joy to see some­one keep hygiene pro­ce­dures based on our train­ing and avoid costs [for the patient] incurred at hos­pi­tals. If we take toi­lets as an exam­ple, they have exten­sive uses. It gives me great joy when I see the com­mu­ni­ty build toi­lets as per the train­ing, I have helped pre­vent dis­eases that come due to poor hygiene and flies. “

We met Bekelech during a mass drug administration, where she is going house-to-house to deliver Zithromax – an antibiotic that prevents and treats trachoma.

“We get training on how we should teach the community to keep their hygiene, facial hygiene, and house hygiene. Therefore, based on the training we get, as we are health extension workers, we go home to home into the community to teach the causes of trachoma and its methods of prevention.”

“If we find trachoma patients, we will refer them to have treatment to a nearby health centre. If there are many, we will organize outreach programmes where health professionals would come to our village to perform the procedure at the health post level. If the patients are few, we will refer them to the health centre, using the referral papers the health centre gives us, to have the treatments there.”

“We identify the symptoms from the training we get. The training covers how trachoma is caused and what symptoms it shows. Based on this training, if someone’s eyes are irritated, if their eye discharges contain mucus or pus, we will diagnose them as trachoma patients. In addition to this, since trachoma is a communicable disease that can spread through shared usage of towels, and direct contact, we convince family members to go to the hospital and get medical attention.”

“There are many cases like this in our Woreda, mainly due to the low-class economic status of the community. Many housewives spend their time cooking in a smoky setting. And since they don’t wash their face or eyes right after finishing their task, it may lead to infection and eventually to trachoma. Apart from that, it is only recently that the community started building clean latrines. Before that, the community used to defecate in the open fields. And if there were any, the latrines had no cover. Flies in contact with this will have contact with food and people’s eyes, leading to trachoma. We give training about these things to the community.”

“Before the pandemic, we used to distribute the medicines at a selected point. To do that, we have every family registered on our logbook, and health work volunteers will mobilize campaigns for people to turnout and queue up the community in a time of disbursing. We then disburse the medicines based on the age group. While we still disburse based on age group, we have been given orientations to avoid public gatherings due to the pandemic. Therefore, we round home to home wearing masks and using sanitizers protecting ourselves and the community.”

“For this reason, it is a tiring task for us. Before the pandemic, people of a village will come together and will take a line with the help of health work volunteers. It wouldn’t take us much time then to finish. We used to cover 5 to 6 villages in a day. But now, while working till night, we are only able to cover up to 3 villages.”

“The fact that it is given home to home is what makes this year’s distribution different from the previous years. The impact of Coronavirus is well known across the country. As most of the people in the community depend on daily labour pay, it caused panic for being unable to go out and work. It has also caused psychological harm. Even though it is getting better now, it has had a profound impact on the community’s livelihood. I think this is clear for everyone.”

“I am observing changes [in the community]. There used to be people who were against vaccination in our home to home campaign. But now, they call us frequently before their appointment time arrives. Things are changing now; the community is being well equipped with awareness.”

“Orbis’ aid to the community is excellent. The work they perform in training health professionals at hospitals and health centres to prevent blindness is much appreciated. But this must continue. Especially in our Woreda, trachoma is still prevalent. We want you to report back to Orbis that trachoma is still prevalent in our Woreda and needs much attention. We will also work hard on our side.”

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