International Women's Day- Tackling Trachoma

Celebrated on March 8, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and raise awareness about gender discrimination. At Orbis, we recognize that blindness is a gender issue and are committed to alleviating unequal access to eye care. 112 million more women than men live with vision loss, including blindness.

We’re able to do this thanks to the support of generous partners such as the Qatar Fund for Development, who are helping us to tackle blinding Trachoma in Ethiopia.

What Is Trachoma?

Trachoma - a painful bacterial eye infection - is one of the most prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases. The burden remains high in rural Ethiopia as medical support can be hard to reach.

Repeat trachoma infections can lead to Trachoma Trichiasis (TT), an even more painful condition in which scarring causes the eyelid to turn in on itself and the eyelashes to scratch the eye, resulting in permanent vision loss without timely treatment.

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness and is far more prevalent in women than men, with women accounting for 70% of cases.

In the last three months of 2022, 72% of those receiving Trachoma Trichiasis surgery through the Qatar Fund for Development supported project, were women.

Barriers to Eye Care

Around the globe, women face additional barriers to accessing healthcare that can vary from location to location. These can include:

  • Access to household finances
  • Inability to travel and safety concerns - Women often have fewer options for travel than men and are more vulnerable to unsafe situations away from home. Older women may require assistance, which poor families cannot provide.
  • Shouldering the vast majority of childcare and household responsibilities, making free time a scarce commodity.
  • A lack of women eye health providers - For cultural or other reasons, women might not seek care from a male practitioner.

Therefore, it’s vital that there are visible and accessible women delivering eye care to communities.

Yeshiemebet is a Nurse who is on the front line in the battle to eradicate Trachoma

It is a reward­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty to be able to restore people’s sight before they face blind­ness. Through our vis­its, the peo­ple now have enough aware­ness about Tra­choma, they know the ben­e­fits of the med­i­cine. We notice there are few­er and few­er cas­es when we go back to the same area. Nowa­days, peo­ple have enough aware­ness that they can even explain it well to oth­er com­mu­ni­ty members.”

Support form partners, such as the Qatar Fund for Development, can help us to expand necessary services to support women in the community. This includes women like Tadelech, a 54 years old mother of five school age children. Six months ago she started to suffer the effects of Trachoma and as her condition worsened, she could no longer cook, fetch water and care for her children. Children of parents with Trachoma are often forced to drop out of school to help at home. Luckily, her children heard about how to access eye care at school and encouraged her to visit the local health centre for treatment. She was diagnosed with Trachoma Trichiasis in both eyes. Without treatment, she would eventually go blind. In August she received surgery on her left eye, and three months later, she received surgery on the right eye.

Tadelech, after surgery


Thanks to the Qatar Fund for Development, Orbis and our partners are working to provide training for health care workers and community leaders, so that more people are aware of eye conditions, including Trachoma, and know where treatment and support can be found.

In 2022, through this project, over 29,000 people were screened for eye conditions, through door to door initiatives and by accessing health care facilities. In addition, over more than 1,200 surgeries for Trachoma Trichiasis have been undertaken, the majority of which have been for women, helping to readdress the gender imbalance.

Treatments for eye conditions, whether they be glasses, surgery and antibiotics, can all change someone’s life. Orbis is working to make eye care available everywhere, for everyone.

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