With over 99,391,000 people, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Of its population, 39% live below the poverty line, 858,000 are blind and an estimated 1,967,000 people live with moderate and severe visual impairment.

Ethiopia’s economy is largely agricultural. More than 80% of Ethiopians live in rural areas without access to safe drinking water or sanitation. This lack of water and sanitation results in a potentially blinding infectious eye disease called trachoma, a disease that disproportionately
impacts women.

To help address the country’s eye care needs, Seva Canada is funding community outreach programs in two Ethiopian locations: Bahir Dar and Debre Berhan, both in the country’s Amhara Region. The residents of this region are in great need of high quality eye care services and already have committed and competent ophthalmologists who have access to basic instruments and equipment to enable cataract surgery. All that is needed is the funding to support the eye care program.

In both locations, Seva Canada supports gender equity in the community by training representatives from microfinance groups to identify, promote, refer and support women who have trouble accessing eye services. Because of these microfinance groups, women have become some of the most financially and educationally empowered members of their communities. They educate their own children, other women and extended family members on the importance of eye care. Microfinance groups are providing an effective forum for educating communities about eye care and linking it to the broader economic and health initiatives in poor rural settings in Africa. By helping women overcome the barriers they face, and creating strong links between communities and eye care providers, our program addresses the root causes of blindness among women: under-utilization of available services. Because of this, Seva helps ensure that more women will be able to see, now and into the future.

Seva Canada also supports the eye units in government hospitals in Debre Berhan and Bahir Dar by providing funds for training, community outreach, surgery, glasses and medicines.

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