Situation in Ethiopia

Currently, Ethiopia is believed to have one of the world’s highest rates of blindness and low vision. It has a population of about 75 million. Overall, there are 1.2 million blind people, 2.8 million people with low vision, 9 million children 1-9 year of age with active trachoma, and 1.3 million adults with Trachomatous trichiasis. The national prevalence of blindness is 1.6% (1.1% for urban and 3.8% for rural). Similarly, the national prevalence for low vision is 3.7% (2.6% for urban and 3.8% for rural populations). Recent studies have shown that both blindness and low vision are more prevalent among females: 1.9% versus 1.2% for blindness, and 4.1% versus 3.1% for low vision.

Similarly, prevalence of childhood blindness is 0.1% and currently accounts for over 6% of the total blindness burden in Ethiopia. The major causes of blindness are cataract (49.9%), trachomatous corneal opacity (11.5%), refractive error (7.8%), other corneal opacity (7.8%), glaucoma (5.2%) and macular degeneration (4.8%). The major causes of low vision are cataract (42.3%), refractive error (33.4%), trachomatous corneal opacity (7.7%), other corneal opacity (5.9%) and macular degeneration (4.6%). In addition, uncorrected aphakia (3.9%), retinal lesions (1.8%), Optic atrophy (1.2%) & in determinate (1.8%) are other types of curable blindness in Ethiopia. Currently, various non-governmental organizations are making efforts by focusing on cataract surgery and trachoma control through a combination of preventive interventions. Ethiopia launched Vision 2010: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in collaboration with international Non- Governmental organizations. Their main focus is to eliminate the major causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020.

80% of blind individuals in Ethiopia cannot participate in economic activities. 10% of the blind in Ethiopia require a sighted caregiver which also leads to a loss of productivity and creates an additional financial burden. Currently, Ethiopia’s ratio of eye care providers (with a MD degree) to citizens is consistent with the rest of Sub Saharan Africa – 1:1,000,000 citizens. 60 of Ethiopia’s ophthalmologists are in Addis Ababa and other large towns. This leaves between 15 and 20 eye doctors to care for 70 million Ethiopians for very little pay. Since only 95 ophthalmologists are available for a country of 75 million population, eye care services are extremely limited throughout the country, particularly in rural areas. But, ORBIS along with other organizations is currently working in Ethiopia to address the country’s high prevalence of avoidable blindness, as well as the country’s limited human resources and infrastructure.

Overall, both blindness and low vision continues to remain a major public health concern throughout the country. Productive efforts need to be made both by government official and public health practitioners to not only understand the severity of this problem but also develop effective strategies to fight blindness in Ethiopia.