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Country Background: Living with Visual Impairment in Ethiopia

It is common knowledge that the cause and consequence of disabilities is poverty: Poor people more often develop a disability and disabled people are above average subjected to poverty.

According to recent studies, about 4 Million out of the 75 Million inhabitants of Ethiopia live with visual impairment: 1.6% is blind, 3.7% suffer from low vision, women generally are more affected by visual impairment and blindness then men and 6% of the blind population are children.
Main causes for visual impairment and blindness are diseases like trachoma, cataract or refractive error. However, manmade risks such as minefields as well as social, economical and regional factors also play a vital role – in fact, 90% of the visual impairments are preventable or curable.
Being a blind person in Ethiopia causes daily hardships that are beyond any description. Accessibility issues and inconvenient infrastructure as well as discrimination in educational institutions and prejudices against people with disabilities lead to economical and professional marginalization.
As visually impaired students mostly come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and environments and suffer from societal and educational support, such as through lacking Braille and audio study material, exemption from certain classes, dependency on the sighted in writing class tests and assignments, they are more likely to drop out of school early or fail to succeed in their anticipated studies. Besides this, persons with visual disabilities constantly face prejudice and stigma in regard to their abilities, limiting their professional opportunities and leaving the majority of people with visual impairments with little chances to escape poverty.