Our work in Ethiopia

More than 69 million people in Ethiopia live in trachoma-endemic areas – the highest of any country in the world.

A child is sitting on a wooden chair. A health worker is examining their eyes. Hibret and two other children are standing, watching in the background.

Sightsavers’ work in Ethiopia focuses on treating and preventing trachoma, an infectious eye disease that can cause blindness.

In 2012, we tracked cases of trachoma in Ethiopia as part of the Global Trachoma Mapping Project. The data we collected showed that the disease was a public health problem in 90 per cent of districts: of the 109 million people who live in the country, more than 69 million live in trachoma-endemic areas, the highest of any country in the world.

The number of people who urgently need eyelid surgery to prevent blindness from trichiasis (advanced trachoma) is more than 693,000, again the highest number of any country worldwide.

To tackle this, Sightsavers is helping to roll out the World Health Organization’s SAFE strategy, which aims to stop the spread of trachoma through surgery, antibiotics, facewashing and environmental improvements. In 2019, we helped to distribute 15.2 million antibiotic treatments for trachoma in the country.

At a glance

Total population
  • 109 million

  • What we focus on
  • Trachoma
  • Intestinal worms

  • Key programmes
  • SAFE: trachoma control
  • A billion NTD treatments
  • Tropical Data Project

  • I didn’t imagine that the pain of trachoma could be relieved with just 20 minutes of surgery. Now my hope is back.
    Rahel, 18, from Raya Alamata district
    Rahel Kasaw is sitting down outside with trees behind her. She is leaning on her hand and looking to the side. She is wearing a bright pink cardigan.
    Sister Habiba Shemsu.

    How we’re making a difference in Ethiopia

    Sister Habiba Shemsu is an eye care worker in the south-west Arba Minch district, and she often walks eight hours a day to get to work. Yet she says it’s worth it to help save sight in rural Africa.

    Read her story

    Your donation could help to protect sight


    More from Ethiopia

    A group of students in blue uniforms, wearing paper masks on their heads.
    Sightsavers from the field

    How soap and superheroes are changing lives

    Geordie Woods explains how the Super School of Five trachoma prevention programme is protecting school children from this devastating disease.

    October 2019
    Abrehet with her baby.
    Sightsavers Reports

    Abrehet’s story

    A young mother with trachoma in Ethiopia experienced pain every time she blinked. A quick operation has saved her sight and relieved the constant pain.

    A close up image of Hibret's face. She is looking to one side.
    Sightsavers Reports

    Hibret’s story

    When Hibret was diagnosed with trachoma, she was devastated to learn she had passed it to her children. But Sightsavers helped her family to be treated.

    Rahel Kasaw is sitting down outside with trees behind her. She is leaning on her hand and looking to the side. She is wearing a bright pink cardigan.
    Sightsavers Reports

    Rahel’s story

    For five years, 18-year-old Rahel was in constant discomfort and fearful of bright light. After her trachoma operation, she is able to study again.

    Sister Habiba Shemsu.
    Sightsavers Reports

    Sister Habiba’s story

    Imagine having to walk eight hours to get to work. That’s the challenge facing Sister Habiba Shemsu, an eye care worker in south-west Ethiopia.


    Unilever and Sightsavers team up to tackle trachoma in Ethiopia

    Sightsavers is teaming up with Unilever’s soap brand Lifebuoy to promote better hygiene practices as part of efforts to eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia.

    June 2016
    A lady, wearing bright red, sits on a bed with a young boy.

    Pfizer celebrates its 500 millionth trachoma treatment

    Pfizer has donated its 500 millionth Zithromax® (azithromycin) antibiotic tablet, used to treat blinding trachoma in countries across Africa and Asia.

    November 2015
    Sightsavers blog

    Collaboration with the WASH sector is key

    We think about the challenges of working in the field of infectious diseases and how working alongside those in the water sector could improve impacts.

    Helen Hamilton, March 2014

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