Patient Aylito, who has a cataract, looks off to the side


Almost six million people in Ethiopia are blind or visually impaired. Cataracts are the leading cause, affecting some 1.7 million people. The country also accounts for 30% of trachoma in sub-Saharan African countries, or 1.2 million people. With only 130 ophthalmologists in the country, there is a severe shortage of eye health professionals.

Success in Ethiopia

Launched in 1999 as our first country office, Orbis International Ethiopia has been driving substantial progress in eye health for more than 18 years. Projects have covered a broad range of areas, including establishing an eye care system in rural southern Ethiopia, launching Ethiopia’s first paediatric eye clinic and its first paediatric ophthalmology unit, as well as opening the Eye Bank of Ethiopia (EBE). Our work has focused on:

  • building capacity, human resources and infrastructure
  • conducting and publishing research
  • raising community awareness, and
  • providing resources and tools.

In 2019 alone, we delivered:

We’ve trained more than 10,000 eye care professionals through our partnerships with hospitals and academic institutions, strengthening their capabilities in teaching, research and providing services. As part of our work, we helped establish services in eye specialties that previously weren’t available in the country, such as paediatric ophthalmology and glaucoma. Through our efforts, we have helped treat nearly 16 million people for disease and conditions ranging from delivering Zithromax to patients for trachoma to conducting eye surgeries and procedures to correct cataracts and other eye conditions.

We’ve also partnered with the government and NGOs to work toward making visual impairment a priority on the national health agenda. In 2002, Ethiopia joined the Vision 2020 initiative launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1999 with the aim to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020.

Aylito gets her sight back

June 16, 2017

Aylito lives in Ethiopia and has been blind in one eye since the age of six. She suffered from trichiasis, a painful eye condition, that threatened sight in her other eye. Unaware of available treatment options, Aylito lived with the impending possibility of losing her vision completely and the fear of not being able to take care of her family.
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What we're doing next

With your continued support, we can implement a model for comprehensive rural eye care that addresses critical gaps through capacity building, healthcare technology and advocacy. We will train more community and healthcare workers in all aspects of eye care, from awareness of services to identification, diagnosis, referral and treatment.

We face the enormous challenge of trachoma in Ethiopia by implementing the World Health Organisation’s SAFE strategy (eyelid surgery, antibiotics, face cleanliness and environmental improvement). We continue to help reduce the risk of trachoma by training nurses to perform trichiasis surgeries at primary healthcare units and build awareness by teaching community health workers, teachers, local women’s group leaders and community leaders about eye health.

We have a long-standing partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health, through which we work to develop and strengthen the capacity of existing government health providers to deliver eye care services at all levels.


  • Federal Ministry of Health
  • The Charities and Societies Agency
  • Regional Health, Education, Finance and Economic Development Bureau
  • District level sector offices
  • ICTC
  • NCBP

Can you help us eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia?

Donate today