Approximately seven million persons in Ethiopia are living with disabilities. This is 8% of the population. Of these, about 45% are visually impaired (blind or partially sighted). The prevalence of blindness and visual impairment is one of the highest in the world. Blindness is more common in rural areas (3.8% in rural areas compared with 1.1% in the city). In addition, recent studies show that more women than men are blind. The ophthalmologists and eye clinics are mainly found in the capital, leaving 70 million people in rural areas with only 20 ophthalmologists at their disposal.
Disabled people in Ethiopia are among the most disadvantaged in both social and economic aspects. They have to deal with stigma, prejudice, rejection and reduced mobility. Approximately 80% of persons with disabilities in Ethiopia cannot participate in economic activities and have no income.
In Grarbet’s eye care programme, 69,875 people were diagnosed and treated for eye problems (including 3,106 trachoma and 2,521 cataract operations, 18,524 cases of trachoma at an early stage treated with antibiotics). To combat trachoma 1,041,129 people received medication.
In 2011, Salu and ENOVIB projects were completed. At the Salu project, 120 persons with disabilities received vocational training. Effort was put into raising awareness about the situation of persons with disabilities amongst government officials in order to strengthen their position in policies and activities. ENOVIB paid a great deal of attention to capacity building amongst member organizations.
Grarbet must keep working on making its project sustainable by cooperating with the government and patient contributions.
In 2011 we worked on a joint strategy for the programme in Ethiopia. Because of the outcome, the partnership with Salu and ENOVIB will not be continued.
In the coming years, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD will put its focus on improving eye care in rural areas. Together with LICHT FÜR DIE WELT Austria we will focus on improving the position of persons with disabilities and their access to services through community-based rehabilitation.