Today on World Sight Day, Orbis, a leading non-profit in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness, is conducting a four-week training program on the Flying Eye Hospital—in Yaoundé, Cameroon, a country with one of the highest prevalences of blindness and visual impairment in the world.
Hosted by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the aircraft arrived in the city last week for a hands-on training that supports Orbis’s ongoing work in the country: strengthening the capacity of clinical and operational eye care professionals at our partner hospitals, Yaoundé Central Hospital (YCH) and Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute (MICEI), Yaoundé.
Located in western Central Africa, Cameroon is home to 23.3 million people, of which 326,213 are moderately to severely visually impaired (MSVI) and 181,831 are blind.1 In fact, the prevalence of MSVI in Cameroon (2.98%) is one of the highest in the world, and over twice as high as the prevalence of MSVI in the U.S. (1.25%). Although the leading cause of visual impairment in the country is cataract, for which there are known, cost-effective treatments, many people in Cameroon don’t have access to affordable or quality eye health services.
One main issue is the uneven distribution of health care workers worldwide. There are 3 ophthalmologists per one million people in the country—that’s 73 ophthalmologists—compared to 60 per million in the United States. Even then, many of these ophthalmologists reside in the two main cities of Yaoundé and Doula and many have limited surgical experience.2
To meet the obstacles faced by local hospitals, the training is being customized to focus on five subspecialties, including cataract, and will include different workshops, covering a range of topics from refraction to equipment repair and maintenance. The project is also a continuing medical education opportunity for local nurses, anesthesiologists, biomedical engineers and technicians through lectures, case discussion, observation, symposia and hands-on training.
This skills-transfer work in Cameroon is timely, given the startling global inequalities in visual impairment revealed by the latest data published by the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) in the Lancet Global Health and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in the IAPB Vision Atlas released today.
The data shows that across the 253 million people in the world who are blind or moderately to severely visually impaired (MSVI), uncorrected refractive errors (eye conditions that can usually be treated with glasses) and cataract are the main causes.3 This new data comes on the heels of a previous VLEG paper4 published in August, which showed that while 90 million people were treated or prevented from becoming blind or visually impaired between 1990 and 2015, trends in an ageing and growing population subject to increases in myopia and diabetic retinopathy could lead to a threefold increase in blindness by 2050.
“The new data is encouraging as it shows that our efforts to reduce avoidable blindness in affected countries are working,” said Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Programs, Orbis. “However, it’s vital we continue this work in the face of a growing and ageing population and increasing chronic diseases like diabetes. We believe the best way to tackle this problem is to work in partnership to help strengthen countries’ healthcare systems.”
Visit the IAPB Vision Atlas for the latest global data surrounding vision. Visit the Orbis Facebook page to view a walk-through of the Flying Eye Hospital in action in Cameroon on World Sight Day.
Orbis is a leading global non-governmental organization that has been a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of blindness for over 30 years. Orbis transforms lives by delivering the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver accessible quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, Orbis provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for the prioritization of eye health on public health agendas. Orbis operates the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft. To learn more, please visit orbis.org.
Culled from Business Insider