Dinknesh: The eye health hero fighting trachoma in Ethiopia

To mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day we want to shine a light on the work of the incredible eye health workers like Dinknesh, who often travel treacherous journeys across the country to complete a crucial task in the fight to eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia.

Trachoma is an easily preventable bacterial eye infection. Yet today, it is still a major cause of irreversible blindness and low vision across rural Ethiopia. Each year Orbis conduct Trachoma Impact Surveys in areas across southern Ethiopia. These surveys involve multiple teams traveling long distances to conduct home-to-home screenings. Each team is made up of Graders, who assess the eyes of people in the community and identify anyone with active trachoma – and recorders, who then record this data.

Trachoma Impact Surveys are a critical tool in the fight against blinding trachoma. Not only do they give us vital prevalence data which helps determine interventions, but teams also raise awareness, promote good hygiene, and offer treatment for early-stage trachoma.

Dinknesh, who works as an Integrated Eye Care Worker, became a trachoma Grader three years ago after receiving training from Orbis.

Her drive to work in eye care began when she first witnessed someone’s sight being restored: “The doctor removed a woman’s eye dressing. She looked up and she was able to see. Her joy was infectious.”

It is also painful to see those who are blind just because they couldn’t access eye care.”

Last year surveys began in September and took teams 58 days to complete from start to finish.

We screen around 30 houses each day. One day I found three children with active trachoma, two of the children were from the same household and I gave them eye ointments. On another day we found three adults that required surgery and we referred them to the nearest health center.”

A mother is given medication after a screening as active trachoma is found.

If trachoma is left undetected and untreated it can advance to trachomatous trichiasis. This causes the eyelashes to turn inwards scraping the front of the eye with every blink. A simple surgery corrects this problem. But if left untreated, it can lead to irreversible blindness.

Dinknesh tells us “one of the patients we encountered needing this surgery lived alone. She didn’t want to go to the health center as she feared there would be no one to care for her after surgery. We connected her with people living in her area and they will be with her during the surgery.”

Navigating Challenging Terrain

Difficult terrain makes trachoma impact work challenging.

The surveys also come with significant challenges. The teams must travel huge distances in all weathers and navigate their way to hard-to-reach communities.

“There was a time we drove for 80km followed by hiking for six hours uphill. My shoes were broken due to the slippery road. When I finally reached the Health Care Center, I couldn’t move any longer. I was exhausted!”

Transforming Lives

Dinknesh and her colleagues are making a huge impact in Ethiopia.

For Dinknesh one of the most rewarding aspects is hearing the stories of people whose lives have been transformed from their home-to-home screenings. “During this survey, I met a woman who told me that ‘last year I was blind, I stayed home alone, but because of your visit, I got referred to a health center for surgery and I can see now.’ I love this job because it prevents blindness.”

We would like to say a huge thank you to Dinknesh, and all her colleagues, who have been working hard to conduct the recent Trachoma Impact Surveys. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, many communities can look forward to a future free from trachoma.


A future free from trachoma in Ethiopia could be in sight with your amazing support

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