Ethiopia is a rapidly developing country, and is emerging from some of the worst trappings of extreme poverty that existed a decade or so ago.

There are, however, still vast areas where people lack basic healthcare services and access to eye care is scarce. The population of over 100 million is scattered across remote, often hard to reach areas. There are just 129 ophthalmologists in the whole country and most of these are in the capital, Addis Ababa. Since 2001, Vision Aid Overseas has sent more than 400 eye care professionals to Ethiopia, to provide free eye tests and low-cost prescription glasses and to train local eye care workers.

Our work in focus

Vision Aid Overseas has supported the establishment of five Vision Centres in Ethiopia since 2002, enabling thousands of people to have eye tests and glasses, most for the first time in their lives. We are passionate about local people leading the way in eye care, and Vision Aid Overseas has supported the establishment of two university courses to train optometrists. We are also training students to run community eye care services.


Hawassa University College of Health and Medical Sciences (UCHMS)

A Vision Centre was installed at Hawassa UCHMS in early 2013. Vision Aid Overseas has supported final year optometry students with training visits from professional volunteers on an annual basis since the school of optometry opened in 2009 and now also supports the faculty staff with professional development training as well as providing text books and teaching aids.

Making it happen

In 2013, the Department for International Development (DFID) awarded Vision Aid Overseas with a major grant to help improve the livelihoods of people living in five districts of southern Ethiopia by increasing access to primary eye care, glasses and treatment for eye diseases. The grant was co-funded by Essilor UK Ltd with cash, frames and lenses.


After three successful years of working in partnership with DFID, Essilor UK and the Ethiopian NGO, Grarbet Tehadiso Mahber (GTM), Vision Aid Overseas was able to:

  • Screen 184, 491 people for eye condition, with 50% of them being women and girls
  • Provide life changing glasses to 14,909 patients
  • Treat 5,150 patients for minor surgery to correct their vision
  • Train 710 teachers to screen school children and identify common eye problems.
  • Support the development of two Vision Centres in Butajira and Ziway covering remote and isolated communities

By making eye care services accessible to remote and isolated communities, a final year survey taken in 2016 when the programme came to an end showed that:

  • Of the adults surveyed after receiving treatment in the form of minor surgery or the provision of glasses, 78% reported an improvement in their quality of life and an increase in household income after the treatment
  • Out of the 2,569 children treated under the project, 73% showed improvements in their school performance since receiving treatment.

To find out more about our work with DFID, Essilor UK and GTM, please click here.

Real Stories- Wubit Habtie, seeing the classroom 

Writing on the blackboard is now easier. Marking books is no longer a daily struggle.

See how a simple eye test and pair of glasses changed Wubit's life. 

Find out more