“Through the ORBIS Lens” is a collection of photos showcasing the issues surrounding global eye health. Each week ORBIS will share our best photographs highlighting our efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness around the world.
“Journalists and humanitarians understandably focus on unmet needs, and that can leave the impression that the story of global health is a depressing failure. In fact, it’s an inspiring story of progress,” writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Kristof is referring to the progress against diseases that are treatable and preventable with a small investment of resources. Diseases such as trachoma, the world's leading infectious cause of preventable blindness.
Surgery for example often has an immediate and tangible impact. Patients who suffered for years from the effects of trachoma are able to discover new potential after intervention. Patients such as Mamite from Konso, Ethiopia, who suffered for years with pain, but after a simple surgery, she can return to work and take care of her family.
Trachoma is often easily passed from person to person, especially in areas with water shortages, crowded living conditions and numerous flies. If left untreated, it may cause trichiasis, a painful condition that causes the eyelid to turn inward and the eyelashes to rub on the eye resulting in scarring which may ultimately lead to blindness.
In Ethiopia, ORBIS and partners fight trachoma using a set of interventions developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) called the SAFE Strategy. Using these interventions, trachoma can be controlled and eventually eradicated.
Blindness is also preventable or treatable in the case of other eye diseases as well. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured. Cataract, for example, is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, but with access to quality eye care can easily be treated with a cost-effective surgery.
In 1999, WHO and the IAPB established Vision 2020: The Right to Sight. This global initiative is a partnership between organizations like ORBIS and governments around the world to promote global eye health and the elimination of avoidable blindness.
Among numerous achievements, all 193 WHO member states are formally committed to investing in eye care, nearly 91 countries have drafted national eye care plans, and most importantly, 15 million fewer people are blind compared to projections made when the initiative was launched. These initiatives and successes are a considerable step in the right direction as ORBIS and partners continue to achieve progress.
Photo: ORBIS/Sean Breithaupt + Yvette Monahan Photography