Task Shifting for Expanding Access to Quality Eye Care Services in Ethiopia

Quality eye care services are essential to the health and quality of life of Ethiopians. An estimated one million people in Ethiopia suffer from trichiasis, where eyelashes grow backward toward the eye. Trichiasis can result in damaged corneas and blindness yet the number of surgeries carried out annually during the last five years is less than 50,000. Many Ethiopians also live with cataracts, the country's leading cause of blindness and visual impairment. Approximately 500,000 Ethiopians have severe visual impairment or blindness from cataracts.

This research project will help inform and influence eye care policies in Ethiopia with the goal of expanding access to quality care. More specifically, the research team will:
- conduct research on cataract surgeons in Ethiopia to supplement existing data;
- compile existing evidence on cataract surgeons for a policy brief;
- compile existing evidence on trichiasis surgeons in Ethiopia for a policy brief;
- hold a meeting of stakeholders in Ethiopia to bring together Ministry of Health policymakers, trainers, eye care program staff, and others to discuss how existing evidence can inform cataract and trichiasis surgery policies, programs, and practices; and,
- prepare a report in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.

The Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) will lead the project and work with Ethiopian research colleagues. This work will advance KCCO's earlier efforts under the Africa Health Systems Initiative - Support to African Research Partnerships. The organization addressed three main eye care issues:
- non-physician cataract surgeons are conducting cataract surgery;
- general nurses are conducting trichiasis surgery; and,
- general health workers (at frontline health facilities) are providing primary eye care.

The findings from this earlier work were compiled and discussed at a stakeholder meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2012. The Nairobi meeting also included colleagues from Ethiopia. They reviewed two areas where tasks are shifting in Ethiopia: trichiasis surgery and cataract surgery. While some evidence on the issue exists, the results from the various research activities in Ethiopia must be compiled. Researchers need to work with the government and its NGO partners to develop a clear strategy to guide trichiasis surgeons.

Since 2007, four Ethiopian training centres have offered training to non-physician cataract surgeons. In 2012, funding for the program ceased. While researchers have investigated productivity, their work has been limited. Further research is needed. Stakeholders must also review the evidence to decide whether the training program should continue as is, follow a different model, or be abandoned.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, March 25, 2013

End Date

Monday, November 25, 2013


8 months

IDRC Officer

Cohen, Marc

Total funding

CA$ 33,390


North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Ethiopia, Kenya


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Paul Courtright


Kilimanjaro Centre For Community Ophthalmology International NPC

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website