Gondar (Ethiopia) Eye Surgery

Frequently asked questions



Q. Is cataract more common in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA)?
A. Yes. People do seem to get more cataract than a similar group in developed countries and the reason is not fully explained. Part of the explanation lies with episodes of dehydration, high ambient temperature, excessive exposure to UV light and possibly dietary factors including vitamin lack.

Q. Do women get more cataract than men?
A. Probably yes. Certainly there is discrimination with regard to access to treatment.


Q. I have heard of Chlamidia as causing venereal disease in Europe. Is this the same germ?
A. It is closely related and can cause a mild conjunctivitis in the new born in Europe. This is not serious. It is the repeated eye infection which leads to complications.

Q. Why do we not see fly born trachoma in Europe?
A. We did at one time. It came back from Egypt 200 years ago during the Napoleonic wars. It died out with improved hygiene, water supply and face washing. The fly itself breeds on exposed faeces so lavatory building and education are also important.

Vitamin A deficiency

Q. When do children at risk become actually Vitamin A deficient?
A. At weaning when they lose the supply of Vitamin A in milk. At times of food shortage when Vitamin A rich tit bits such as liver etc go to the older family members. During measles epidemics when extra Vitamin A is needed to help repair skin surfaces.

Q. Is this a common problem?
A. The high rural areas of Debark and the Simien Mountains are not conducive to growing the carrots and green leaf vegetables that are normal Vitamin A sources in other parts so there is always a risk.

Q. If prevention is so cheap why is it not prevented?
A. Ignorance and access to health advice. But progress is being made.

Lack of Spectacle Correction

Q. I see plenty of Opticians in my local high street. Do they not exist in Ethiopia?
A. No. Gondar University Medical School has started the first optician’s training in Ethiopia. They are finding employment in vision testing etc, but their infrastructure will be slow to develop outside the big towns. Reading glasses are available from street vendors and the occasional shop.

River Blindness

Q. I have heard a lot about this disease. Is it a problem in Ethiopia?
A. No. Only in a few small areas in lowland Ethiopia in the west of the country. Strangely the variety of the parasite in Ethiopia does not seem to cause blindness!

About GEES

Q. Do you have any salaried office staff?
A. No. The office and accounting work is all carried out voluntarily.

Q. Do you pay salaries to anyone in Ethiopia?
A. No

Q. Does finance go to any individual apart from those in training?
A. Yes. When we have financed Workshop Presentations or used help writing curricula for presentation nationally.

Q. Do you pay expatriates from the UK or elsewhere?
A. Only with basic expenses especially associated with travel when they teach.

Q. You seem to be quite a small charity. Do you work in conjunction with other people?
A. Most emphatically yes. (See Track Record and Vision for the Future). With regard to size many people supporting charities prefer to be associated with a small organization with tightly controlled overheads as long as they are setting and achieving realistic objectives.

Blindness in Ethiopia

Q. I don’t seem to see as many blind people when I am traveling in Ethiopia as your figures would suggest. Why is this?
A. Blind people in Ethiopia stay in their homes. 50% of children blinded by Vitamin A deficiency do not survive.   Blindness reduces life expectancy in Sub Saharan Africa.

Q. Ethiopia has a large population. Why does it not train more eye doctors?
A. Doctors, especially those with higher specialist qualifications, are recruited to work in other countries. Putting money into training more doctors as specialists may not be as cost effective as training skilled nurses to do cataract surgery or training community health workers to participate in simple preventive eye work and screening for eye problems in rural areas.

Q. Will not trained nurses also be recruited to work outside Ethiopia?
A. Their qualification is not recognised elsewhere and they prefer to stay near their own communities.

If you have any further questions...

Please contact Caroline Holt Wilson

Tel: 00 44 [0]1291 690428
Email G.E.E.S

GEES the eye sight charity serving the Gondar region of Ethiopia
Charity facts and statistics for Gondar Ethiopia Eyesight
Child blindness in Ethiopia - Sandy Holt Wilson GEES
Child blindness in Ethiopia - Sandy Holt Wilson GEES
Child blindness in Ethiopia - Sandy Holt Wilson GEES
Child blindness in Ethiopia - Sandy Holt Wilson GEES
Child blindness in Ethiopia - Sandy Holt Wilson GEES