There is nothing as saddening as seeing people suffering from an avoidable or easily treatable vision problems. As documents indicate, globally, particularly in developing countries, a large number of people of all ages face vision problems and long term blindness due to ailments that can be treated or prevented easily.
Among the many, corneal opacity that can be caused by anything and lead to corneal scars, abrasions, infections plus cataracts are the leading ones that lead individuals to vision loss.
As studies indicate, corneal opacity affects around 1.5 million persons and accounts for about 4 percent of cases of blindness worldwide.
The case is not different in Ethiopia. As various documents affirm, more than 3 percent of the global blindness burden is in Ethiopia, and it is estimated that 87-91 percent of blindness and low vision in Ethiopia is avoidable.
Of avoidable blindness and low vision in the country, 7.5 percent is attributed to corneal opacities, for which corneal transplant remains the primary sight-restoring procedure. In fact, cornea transplants require access to a trusted source of corneal tissue,
which must be donated from recently deceased individual, meet quality standards and be transplanted to a recipient within days of donation. The global demand for corneal tissue far outpaces supply, and lack of affordable tissue in Ethiopia was the largest barrier to corneal care.
Among the cases that expose the people for corneal blindness, results from trachoma, Xerophthalmia, use of harmful traditional eye medicines, onchocerciasis and ocular trauma, studies show. Owning to these and other similar cases, thousands of people are living with curable blindness.
Gratitude to those kindhearted individuals, who pledged to donate their corneas after death, some people have had their sight restore through corneal transplantation treatment.
In fact the culture of the public who are pledging to donate their corneas after death is at its lowest level even if some generous people are doing it.
Of late, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church has pledged to donate his corneal tissue after death.
According to him, donating corneal tissue is a precious gift one could offer to restore the sights of individuals and brighten their future. "I think tissue donation is one of the most treasured gifts that beams ray of hope for those who have been on the waiting lists of hospitals for tissues for long.
I am happy for my pledge and supporting Bank's effort in combating blindness. I serve as an example to all Ethiopians whose precious gifts make a difference, and restore the sight of others."
Lemlem Ayele, Director of the Eye Bank of Ethiopia Elimination of Corneal Blindness Partnership (EBE) said that the Bank is working to ensure that all placed on waiting lists could get the tissue.
"However, in most cases, challenges occurred due to the minimal number of donors as they refrain from donating for various reasons including religious causes."
Appreciating the initiative that His Holiness has taken, she said people should follow suit and religious leaders should teach the public about the true value of philanthropy.
She also urged Ethiopians to second the good deeds of kind hearted fellow citizens who responded to those needy one considerately.
EBE had operated over 2,523 fellow citizens with eye problems and able to restore their sight. Over ten thousand have also promised to donate their corneal tissue after deceased.