Case Study

Flying into sight with Orbis

Community lifelines Skills

The Orbis Flying Hospital is a one-of-a-kind aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to rescue patients from eye diseases that lead to blindness. For over 25 years, this initiative has combined cutting edge technology with the benefits of aviation to deliver vital eye care treatment to low-resource and geographically isolated communities worldwide.

Starting with the DC-8, donated by United Airlines in 1980, and expanding into an MD-10 aircraft from FedEx, the Flying Eye Hospital carries its team of eye care specialists to developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Among its multifarious advantages, the hospital aims to compensate for the disproportionate lack of ophthalmologists by sharing expertise and techniques with local medical teams to help thousands of patients with eye diseases.

Over 78 projects have been realised through the Flying Eye Hospital as it continues to teach and inspire local teams around the world. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the hospital has remained grounded due to widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions. In response to these developments, Orbis has expanded its telemedicine platform Cybersight to provide virtual clinical training to local eye care teams in isolated communities.

Since the pandemic, the number of Cybersight users has risen from 16,000 to 28,000, expanding the network of eye care professionals able to benefit remotely from the mentoring and training programmes offered by the organisation. Orbis is also in the process of creating an artificial intelligence tool that would analyse digital photographs to detect common eye diseases in as little as eight seconds.

As a non-profit organisation, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital relies on public donations and has had to cope with the dwindling financial support during the pandemic. Nevertheless, this has not abated the organisation’s goal to tackle blindness and support underprivileged segments of civil society by lifting them from the clutches of blindness.