Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country. Despite being rich in exports such as coffee, livestock, gold and leather, Ethiopia is one of Africa's poorest states with almost two-thirds of the population illiterate.
Its economy revolves around agriculture which is dependent on rainfall and drought is a common problem Ethiopians face; millions have been affected in the 1970s, 1980s, and 2006 and summer of 2011.
Blindness is one of the major public health problems of the country with a national prevalence of blindness and low vision of 1.6%, and 3.75% respectively. However, about 90 per cent of blindness in Ethiopia is avoidable (preventable and/or treatable).
Vision Aid Overseas has been involved in eye care in Ethiopia since 2001 and to date has provided training for over 50 ophthalmic clinical officers as well as supporting two BSc Optometry courses at Gondar and Hawassa universities.
Vision Aid Overseas has established four Vision Centres in Menelik II Hospital in Addis Ababa, Butajira and Batu (in collaboration with an in-country NGO, Grarbet Tehadiso Mehber). These centres are supplied with lenses, frames and consumables to ensure the workshops can continually work to capacity and produce high quality spectacles.
Vision Aid Overseas now employs two part time in-country representatives. Dr Zelalem Eshetu is an ophthalmologist who has invaluable experience working in Ethiopia through his work with ORBIS International. He liaises with the Programme Director, Michele de Vaal on all our programmes in Ethiopia regularly and visits our Vision Centres and staff. Dr Tesfaye Tedesse is currently studying at the Menelik ll Hospital and has special responsibility to assist with our programme there.
During 2012-2013, we have installed a new Vision Centre in Hawassa and seen 5,639 patients.