Orbis flying eye hospital has landed at Bole international airport in Addis Ababa, where it is carrying out a two-week intensive eye care training programme for eye specialists and supporting staff. Under the programme, which began at the airport on 5 July, over 50 ophthalmologists and 30 other medical professionals from the capital and other regional states in Ethiopia will attend lectures and live surgical demonstrations and get hands-on experience. The training is focussing on retinal diseases, eye plastic and reconstructive surgery, cataracts, glaucoma, ultrasound and paediatric ophthalmology in particular.

The Orbis flying eye hospital is a converted DC-10 jet aircraft containing operating, laser and recovery rooms, a classroom and an audiovisual studio. Staffed by an international team of volunteer eye specialists and other health care professionals, Orbis has conducted treatment and training in over 84 countries since it was established in 1982.

Nearly one million Ethiopians suffer from blindness out of a population of around 75 million, while a further three-four million are visually impaired, according to Orbis country director Dr Wondu Alemayehu. In nearly 75 per cent of cases, preventable diseases such as cataract, trachoma and glaucoma and vitamin A deficiency in childhood are to blame. This situation is due to lack of education on eye health care issues amongst the general public, and the rural population in particular, said Dr Wondu, speaking at the programme launch. But much of the countrys blindness could be prevented or treated if blindness was moved up the agenda of health care issues.