Jimma is the largest city in the Oromia region in southwestern Ethiopia. It’s a university town, with bustling, dusty streets and in the middle of the city’s main roundabout, a sculpture of a large coffee pot delicately balancing mid-pour.
The Oromia region is the largest and most heavily populated in Ethiopia, and it’s where The Foundation does its developmental work. Gabi Hollows, our founding director, recently made a trip to Jimma to witness the great progress the doctors, nurses and health workers are making with the blinding eye disease, trachoma.
Trachoma is at endemic levels in Oromia; 27 million people are at risk of developing the disease and without vital surgery, 155,000 are at risk of losing their sight. People who suffer eye damage and blindness can no longer do productive work and must rely on the care of other family members, usually girls.
Watching our sight-saving teams at work is just as amazing as you'd imagine. I wish you could see it first-hand
- Gabi Hollows
Trachoma is so prevalent in Ethiopia because more than 80% of Ethiopians live in rural areas, many without access to safe drinking water or sanitation. Hot, dusty and unhygienic living conditions create the ideal environment for trachoma to flare up and spread.
Trachoma is passed from person to person through unwashed hands, using the same face cloths, and via flies. Ongoing infection and re-infection fuels the disease and eventually, the eyelashes become inverted and painfully rub on the eye. The scratching causes damage to the cornea and this can lead to permanent blindness.
However, this can all be prevented. Trachoma can be treated, often with antibiotics and improved access to water so people can maintain better hygiene.
The Fred Hollows Foundation works with local doctors, nurses and health works in cities and remote areas of Oromia to treat the more severe cases that require surgery and to help educate communities to stop the spread of this devastating disease.
There’s much to be done, but it’s clear from Gabi’s recent trip that we’re making great progress – thanks to your generous donations.
Thanks to your support, we’re on track to eliminate trachoma for good.
- Gabi Hollows