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Gondar, Ethiopia

Ethiopian child suffering with cataractsSoft drinks and their ring pulls as fashion accessories reach most people in all parts of the world. Eye services do not. There is an ambition to change this.

Exodus has joined Dr Sandy Holt-Wilson, a UK ophthalmologist who has been involved with Gondar University Eye Department since the year 2000. There are 10,000 blind people (and 250 blind children) for every one million population in Ethiopia. Over three quarters of this is curable or preventable and due to three conditions. One of these is the sticky fly born conjunctivitis seen in its earliest stages in children. Another is Vitamin A deficiency. The third is cataract blindness of which there are estimated to be 350,000 cases in Ethiopia with perhaps 20,000 in the Gondar region and Simien Mountains.

There are not enough eye surgeons in Ethiopia and Gondar University is being supported to run BSc courses to train nurses in cataract surgery and prevention of eye disease. It is unrealistic to think we can immediately raise the £300,000 to build the new University eye unit and teaching centre, but there is always something that can be done towards this. But in particular we will be seeking to support peripheral eye units from where those who have been trained can work. These units will need medical supplies, microscopes, books and transport.

Gondar (Ethiopia) Eye Surgery [GEES] has undertaken to support the University. Exodus has undertaken to support GEES

Holidays that visit Ethiopia:
Discover Ethiopia (Trip Code: AYE)
Lalibela & The Simien Mountains (Trip Code: AYC)
The Omo Valley (Trip Code: AYO)
Ethiopia: The Simien Mountains (Trip Code: TYE)
Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). Donations for this project will be handled by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

To make a donation, please click here

June 2007 update

Sandy Holt-Wilson who helped to set up the project has recently met the Dean and the Medical Director of Gondar Medical School. The University has agreed to appoint a lecturer to liaise with the Community to do eye work through the Community Health Faculty.

Sandy has started to pay a young man who has achieved an MSc in Community Health, on the basis that he will obtain this post. He will then be responsible for developing the eye activities away from Gondar through the Health Centres into the Simien Mountains, as well as teaching and encouraging interest amongst the students. We are supporting him each month which is encouraging him to continue with this very worthwhile project. Dr. Sandy at work in Ethiopia (GEES)- click for larger image

March 2007 update:
Sandy in the Simiens

Last November Dr. Sandy Holt-Wilson joined an Exodus group trekking in the Simien mountains and saw first hand quite how much outreach clinics are necessary in these remoter areas. Word soon got round that not only did we have a doctor in the group but an eye doctor! Most days we had at least a couple of visitors at camp hoping for miracles and we came across many more in need of help along the way. Many of these were blind children and horrifyingly many were blind due to Vitamin A deficiency. This is an untreatable but totally preventable condition that, if diagnosed early, could be avoided by prescribing inexpensive and easily available Vitamin A capsules. It emphasised to us just how beneficial these clinics could be.

On the positive side, thanks to Sandy and donations to GEES, we were able to successfully help a middle-aged man. Blind in one eye his sight was bad in the other due to past infection and scar tissue. Sandy thought that a simple operation, which could be performed in Gondar, had a good chance of improving the vision in his partially sighted eye. He and his family are typical of highlanders living in this area and just about surviving off their land. However, unable to see he had to employ someone to plough his land. This extra expense tipped the balance and made his farming unsustainable. We tested his commitment to having treatment by giving him a small amount of money to get transport to a town where we would meet him at the end of our trek. He was there with his son to assist him! Our guides and friends helped him find accommodation and he had the operation in Gondar. It was a success. He was a very happy man and can see enough to plough his land. The cost of the operation and treatment was very little and the major cost was accommodation and transport for him and his son to stay in Gondar pre and post op and to attend the necessary check ups.

Sandy’s expertise, huge amounts of help from our Ethiopian guides, cooks and drivers and the generosity of Exodus clients made this possible. Many more people need help and with outreach clinics and early diagnosis of problems we can make a difference. Blindness in Ethiopia affects 1.6% of the population so there may be 30,000 blind people in Northern Amhara. This time we helped to cure one of them. Patient and family with guides at Geech - Click for larger image

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