What is the Eyes of Africa Initiative?

Our current fund-raising drive, the Eyes of Africa Initiative, is focusing our efforts on Africa.Cataract is responsible for almost half of the 7 million blind Africans despite the availability of a simple $25-50 procedure that could permanently restore their sight.

Eyes of Africa Initiative

KCCO’s Sylvia Shirima, MPH, interviews a child and her grandmother after cataract surgery provided through a KCCO program

If you are reading this you may have to try to imagine being one of the 37 million people who are blind in the world – or one of over one hundred million with visual impairment. Not surprisingly, 90% of these people live in poor countries which are least equipped to provide services.

Fortunately, there are practical cures or simple prevention for 75% of the world’s blindness. But getting these solutions out to poor rural communities where the blind live is a huge challenge.

OWSP’s Eyes of Africa initiative focuses on doing just that. Working with partners in Africa, Eyes of Africa will support programs to help the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children, to receive sight saving services.

For example, one of the first projects is to finish a new pediatric operating suite in Moshi Tanzania. Pediatric cataract is now a leading cause of blindness in African children. Yet research has revealed that in sub Saharan Africa there can be a delay of over 3 years between the time the mother notices that her child can’t see and the time they get to the hospital for treatment. There are too few centers with personnel trained and equipped to provide the special care that children with cataract need. And fewer than 40% of children ever receive the essential follow up care needed to ensure good vision after cataract surgery. A special “whole family” program in Tanzania organized by the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology is now finding these children earlier, providing free cataract surgery for them, and actively helping them after surgery. Follow up has increased to 80%! The new operating suite will help ensure that the growing numbers of children receiving eye care in northern Tanzania get surgery in a timely fashion.

Women are another vulnerable group- in fact, 2/3 of the blind in Africa are women. The Eyes of Africa will provide rural screening and transportation to the hospital for women from villages, ensuring that women have a chance to receive eye care and sight restoring surgery.

Training local eye care staff is vital to long term sustainability. The Eyes of Africa will sponsor training and mentoring of teams of local doctors, nurses, and managers to scale up successful projects like those above. It’s already happening in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Madagascar. Thanks to Allergan and One World Sight Project, the Eyes of Africa initiative will make a major impact in sub-Saharan Africa.

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