Addis Ababa, September 24, 2007 – At the invitation of the Federal Ministry of Health (MoH)/National Committee for Prevention of Blindness (NCPB), a three-week hospital-based clinical training program kicked off today at Menelik II Hospital, Addis Ababa. An international team of volunteer doctors and medical professionals have arrived to work with the Department of Ophthalmology, Addis Ababa University Medical Faculty at Menelik II Hospital and the Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia. The training will focus on subspecialty areas of cataract, glaucoma, corneal diseases, pediatric blindness, diagnostic ultrasound, neuro-ophthalmology, and oculoplastic/orbital disorders.
“There are over 1 million people in Ethiopia who are blind from causes that are either preventable or curable. To eliminate avoidable blindness in Ethiopia, a blindness prevention strategy should be integrated into the government’s health care system,” said Dr. Hunter Cherwek, medical director of the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital. “There are also simple and effective measures to fight the problem of blindness locally. Promotion of regular eye exams, proper individual and environmental sanitation, and public education on eye diseases in schools and rural communities can save thousands of people from needlessly losing their sight.”
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world. 1.2 million Ethiopians are blind and additional 2.8 adults and children have low vision. 87.4% of all blindness and 91.2% of low vision is either preventable or treatable. The major causes of blindness are cataract (50%), corneal opacity (11.5%), refractive error (7.8%), and glaucoma (5.2%).
During the three-week training program, September 24-October 12, 2007, more than 120 ophthalmologists and ophthalmic residents, nurses, biomedical engineers, and anesthesiologists from Addis Ababa and other parts of the country will receive training through hands-on instruction, lectures, and live surgical demonstrations. As part of the program, a workshop entitled, “ East Africa Vision 2020: The Right to Sight,” will be held October 10-12, 2007. Participants from eight East African countries, including Ethiopia, will gather to discuss each country’s ophthalmic health concerns, current strategies for tackling the issues, and potential solutions. This is also an opportunity to raise awareness of and advocate for greater focus on eye care issues.
“This program is intended to further improve the skills of professionals in selected subspecialty areas. By so doing, Ethiopian professionals will be able to practice cost effective and high volume surgeries with emphasis on the leading causes of blindness such as cataract”, said Dr. Wondu Alemayehu, ORBIS Ethiopia’s country director.
ORBIS has already made a significant impact in Ethiopia by improving the capacity of the departments of ophthalmology and Addis Ababa University medical faculty at Gondar and Hawassa Universities, through training and the provision of equipment and teaching aids. ORBIS currently implements 12 different projects in Ethiopia through its country office, which was established in 1999 in Addis Ababa.
ORBIS’ success would not have been possible without the support of its international and local sponsors. ORBIS appreciates the support of Ethiopian Airlines, which has generously donated free international air tickets for the program. ORBIS also extends it appreciation to Sun Optics, ORBIS Trading, Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Omo Car Rent and other collaborating partners.
About ORBIS International
ORBIS International is a nonprofit global development organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide. Since 1982, ORBIS volunteers and staff have restored the vision and transformed the lives of more than 4.4 million people in 85 countries. At the same time, ORBIS has been building local capacity to provide eye care in those countries by training more than 154,000 eye care professionals aboard the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital and in local hospitals in developing countries. Long-term national blindness prevention programs also take place in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India and Vietnam. To learn more about ORBIS, visit www.orbis.org.
Media Contact: Djalene Temesgen, PR Director, ORBIS International-Ethiopia, Phone: 251-11-6620996/97, Fax: 251-11-6620995, E-mail: Djalene.Temesgen@orbis.org.