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Orbis and partners mark historic 100 millionth dose of sight-saving antibiotic azithromycin in the fight to eliminate blinding trachoma in Ethiopia by 2030



Milestone achieved 20 years after Orbis began leading mass drug administrations

NEW YORK, May 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Eye care nonprofit Orbis International today announced that it has distributed 100 million doses of azithromycin antibiotics in Ethiopia. This is part of ongoing efforts to eliminate trachoma, an infectious, painful, and blinding eye disease, by 2030, in line with World Health Organization goals.

In a symbolic moment, the 100 millionth dose was administered to six-year-old Hizkiel by Lelisa Amanuel, Senior Advisor to the State Minister, Ministry of Health. Derek Hodkey, President and CEO of Orbis International, was also in attendance. The dose was administered in Gacho Baba District, Gamo Zone, SNNPRS, Ethiopia. Local children performed a play during a celebration to mark the moment, and community leaders blessed the giving of the historic dose.

“Today is an historic moment,” said Dr. Alemayehy Sisay, Country Director of Orbis Ethiopia. “We started by administering one dose of azithromycin in 2003. It has been a long journey to reach this 100 millionth dose 20 years later. So, while the work continues, today has a special meaning to all involved in working to eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia.”

The administration of the dose was part of a wider Orbis-led mass drug administration taking place in the Gacho Baba District. In 2022, Orbis and its partners distributed 3.4 million antibiotic doses for trachoma control and elimination within Ethiopia. This work will continue in the coming years to ensure that trachoma can be eliminated in the country by 2030.

Trachoma elimination

Trachoma is one of the world’s oldest infectious diseases known to humans, with ice age skeletons from 8,000 years ago showing evidence of the disease. If left untreated, it can cause extreme pain with repeat infections as eyelashes turn inwards and scratch the eye, causing scarring that ultimately leads to permanent blindness. While we have made great strides in combatting trachoma, 1.9 million people today are blind or living with vision loss due to this tropical disease. In addition, 125 million people remain at risk in 42 affected countries. Nearly half of the people at risk in the world live in Ethiopia.

Trachoma is highly contagious, but it is easily treatable with antibiotics. 30 years ago in 1993, the World Health Organization endorsed the SAFE strategy to combat the disease in countries where trachoma continued to be prevalent. The SAFE strategy emphasizes Surgery for eyelashes turned inwards, Antibiotics to stop or slow the spread, Facial cleanliness, which prevents transmission and infection, and Environmental improvement, particularly for water and sanitation to reduce transmission of infection. As of 2023, the WHO has validated the elimination of trachoma as a public health need in 15 countries.

Orbis’s partnerships and work in Ethiopia

Orbis Ethiopia began implementing mass drug administrations, as part of the SAFE strategy, 20 years ago in 2003. A number of partners and funders through this time have helped make the vital work towards eliminating trachoma in Ethiopia possible, including FCDO/DFID, Irish Aid, Sightsavers, the Qatar Fund For Development, Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, The Clothworkers Foundation, Euromoney, CIFF, The End Fund as well as generous contributions from many other donors.

In 2021, Orbis and partners performed more than 16,000 surgeries in cases where trachoma infections had progressed to the later stages of infection called trachomatous trichiasis. To date, Orbis has conducted over 217,000 trachomatous trichiasis surgeries.

Good hygiene practices, such as face washing and handwashing, play a crucial role in combating trachoma because of its highly contagious nature. That is why Orbis has supported the construction of communal and school latrines as well as protected water points in SNNPRS, Sidama, and South West Ethiopia People’s Region. Over the past 23 years, Orbis Ethiopia, in collaboration with local partners, has constructed a total of 130 latrine blocks with covered toilets and installed 36 water points throughout communities and schools.

About Orbis 
Orbis is a leading global non-governmental organization that has been a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness for over four decades. Orbis transforms lives by delivering the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver accessible quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners, including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, Orbis provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for the prioritization of eye health on public health agendas. Orbis operates the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft, and an award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight. For the past ten consecutive years, Orbis has achieved Charity Navigator‘s coveted four-star rating for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, placing Orbis in the top 3% of U.S. charities. For the past two years, Orbis has earned GuideStar‘s platinum Seal of Transparency. In 2022, Orbis earned “accredited charity” status from the Better Business Bureau by meeting all 20 of their standards for charity accountability. To learn more, please visit

Orbis International 
Jenna Montgomery
Manager, Global Communications and Marketing 
[email protected] 

SOURCE Orbis International

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