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Vision Excellence Awards: Redda Tekle Haimot

Prof. Redda Tekle Haimanot

Professor Redda has an impressive academic and professional resumé. He began his medical education in Israel and went on to practice medicine in both Uganda and Ethiopia. He then went to Canada to specialize in Neurology, and on returning to Ethiopia in 1980 he joined the Faculty of Medicine of Addis Ababa University where he rose to the rank of Professor of Medicine. It was there that he obtained his PhD. During five years of research he felt a strong desire to help the poor and marginalized communities in rural Ethiopia. This drove him to establish his own NGO in 1997, Grarbet Tehadiso Mahber (GTM), which is now one of the most respected centres for eye health in Ethiopia.

GTM initially focused on treating epilepsy and rehabilitating physical disabilities, however, during their surveys, the high prevalence of eye diseases within the rural communities became immediately apparent. In fact, of the public health problems detected in their surveys, eye problems were the most alarming. As a result, Prof. Redda became fascinated by ophthalmology and eye care. It was then that he was introduced to Vision Aid Overseas (VAO). Ever since, GTM and VAO have worked in partnership to develop and deliver eye care services in the region. A specific highlight was the successful completion of a DFID and Essilor-funded project to improve the livelihoods of people in southern Ethiopia by increasing access to primary eye care. Of the children treated under the project, 73% showed improvements in their school performance since receiving treatment.

GTM established two eye care centers with optical workshops. Through these centers and their outreach clinics, over 1.5 million people have been screened for eye conditions and over 110,000 have received glasses. They established the first and only Low Vision Center in the country, and they now take ophthalmology and ENT residents from the second largest medical school in the country on attachments at the Butajira hospital for hands-on training. GTM has also been heavily involved in Trachoma Control using the WHO recommended SAFE Strategy.

Since the establishment of GTM in 1997 the impact on the region and on eye health in Ethiopia is undeniable. None of this would have been achieved with the drive and passion of its founder, Prof. Redda. As well as his long-standing relationship with VAO, he has nurtured successful collaborations with numerous international NGOs and government to leverage greater impact.

He believes “We have just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of eye care in Ethiopia. However, we have succeeded to start the process of influencing the Ethiopian health care system and providing the general public a sense of awareness that eye health requires urgent and universal attention.”

He has driven the values of the V2020 initiative throughout his tireless work over the past two decades. His ambition remains as strong now as it was back in 2000, and that is why we are proud to nominate him to recognise his contribution to the V2020 initiative over the past 20 years.