Part 1: The End is in Sight

What is causing hundreds of thousands of people to go blind in Ethiopia?

Last updated: 11 May 2014 10:16
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NOTE: This film contains disturbing images of eye surgery and human suffering that some people may find upsetting. This film is not suitable for children.

"The End is in Sight" profiles the work under way in Africa to eliminate trachoma and river blindness; two neglected diseases that can cause irreversible blindness if left untreated.


Twenty-one million people are affected by trachoma, an eye infection that can leads to blindness.

It is a bacterial disease spread from one eye to another through close contact mostly between mothers and their children, as well as by flies. 

The Amhara province in the Ethiopian highlands has the highest prevalence in the world. 

When I give treatment to people, I want to finish it and see people cured. That is what I feel inside. I become satisfied when I help them become free from the suffering.

Dasash Hasen, Lifelines'  "Health Hero" 

The disease scars the eyelid , turning it inwards so the eyelashes painfully scratch the cornea, ultimately leading to blindness.

Wolde is 85-years-old and totally dependent on his daughter Amalda. His wife is completely blind, and Wolde has advanced trachoma. They rely heavily on Amalda's help; however, she is also infected with trachoma and fears that losing her sight would leave her family destitute.  

The only way to avoid going blind is for them to have corrective surgery. The clinic is 20km away, a very long walk for Wolde.

A field health worker tries to convince them to take the step to go for the free surgery.

A 22-year-old nurse Dasash Hasen has had just three weeks of training to prepare for the surgery that could save Wolde's eyesight.

At first she had a hard time looking at blood during surgery. But now, she is glad she can help restore so many Ethiopians' sight. 

After a 30-minute procedure, Wolde and Amalda have to walk the 20km back home since there is nowhere for them to stay near the clinic. Wolde has both his eyes covered and is led by Amalda, who only has had the operation on one eye. 

Will the surgeries be enough to save their eyesight?

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health  profiles the extraordinary work of global health workers in their quest to rid the world of the deadly, neglected diseases and conditions that keep millions of people in poverty.

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health   can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2000; Friday: 1200; Saturday: 0100; Sunday: 0600; Monday: 2000; Tuesday: 1200; Wednesday 0100


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About LifeLines
Lifelines: The Quest For Global Health
is Al Jazeera's new cross-platform project profiling the extraordinary work of global health workers as they tackle eight deadly diseases and conditions that afflict vulnerable communities across the globe. These good news stories stretch from the Philippines to Pakistan, Uganda to South Sudan, India to Senegal, featuring the people who are working to prevent, control or eradicate malaria, rabies, polio, leprosy, schistosomiasis, Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma and maternal and neonatal mortality. Online, on screen and on the ground in affected communities, we will share their uplifting stories in Lifelines: The Quest For Global Health.
Sign up for regular updates about the people and their work around the world to tackle these diseases and conditions.
Lifelines will focus month by month on each condition here on our website and in 2014 will premiere an eight-part
documentary series on Al Jazeera English.