‘First ever’ glaucoma toolkit for Sub-Saharan Africa

Light for the World is proud to launch with our partners a ‘first of its kind’ toolkit to combat glaucoma, the leading cause of irreparable blindness, across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Isabel Antonio sits with her two grandchildren in front of her house on a bamboo mat. The small child sits on her lap and her older grandson who is an albino sits next to her looking happily at his sister.

This toolkit gives invaluable practical guidance for eye health professionals working in the field,” says Dr Fatima Kyari, IAPB  West Africa Chair and Glaucoma Advisor to Light for the World.

Support where it’s needed most

Glaucoma is an important public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where it accounts for 15% of blindness. It is estimated more than 1 in 100 people  in East, Central, and Southern Africa are affected by the condition.  

But for people who live in remote areas, early detection is often not possible because medical care is inadequate. In Mozambique, for example, there only 25 ophthalmologists for more than 27 million people.

Isabel’s story

The impact on the lives of individuals affected by glaucoma is hard to overstate.

[Insert pic - Title: Isabel Antonio is sitting with her grandchildren on a bamboo mat in front of the entrance to her house. © Light for the World]

Isabel António suffered with her eyesight for decades. She was repeatedly in at the hospital, but her glaucoma was missed each time. She was diagnosed only three years agoago, and the disease was too advanced. Her eyesight could no longer be saved.

The 51-year-old grandmother couldn't believe it: “Glaucoma took so many things from me. Now I have high blood pressure and am struggling with depression. I was independent but now I need help. I wish I had known then what to do to stop the disease."

‘Hot potato’ 

Despite its severity, the resources and attention given to glaucoma on at all levels – international, regional and national – are woefully low.

As Professor Daniel Etya’ale MD, former VISION 2020 Global Coordinator for Africa, puts it: “Unfortunately, glaucoma has been deemed a hot potato: too difficult to easily diagnose, especially in its early stages; and not enough skills or appropriate tools to follow it up over time.” 

Solutions at hand

If glaucoma is diagnosed early, there are good treatment options, including medication and eye drops. Surgery or laser treatment can also help reduce increased pressure in the eye. 

To support the treatment of glaucoma, Light for the World has developed a transnational programme in Africa with the support of the Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung. The aim is to detect the disease as early as possible. The toolkit is a part of these efforts.

“The toolkit provides modalities of quality management of a complex disease in under resourced environments in Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr. Geoffrey Wabulembo, Light for the World’s Director of Eye Health.

“It tackles obstacles including late diagnosis, low levels of public awareness and more broadly tips for working within health & medicine systems that have, to date, been poorly equipped to deal with glaucoma. We strongly believe this toolkit, which has been developed to address the population at highest risk, will have great returns.” 

Working together

A Toolkit for Glaucoma Management in Sub-Saharan Africa ” has been developed with support from the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung, and in partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Sightsavers International, International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO), the College of Ophthalmology for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA), the Francophone African Ophthalmic Society (SAFO), the West African College of Surgeons (WACS), the African Glaucoma Consortium, and many more.

“The toolkit is owned by African eye care professionals and specialists who are true experts. It is something that all involved should be very proud of,” says Fatima Kyari.

Professor Daniel Etya’ale MD agrees: “I enthusiastically salute the new Glaucoma toolkit and congratulate all those who have worked hard towards its development. Let’s hope that with the toolkit now available to all, enough resources will be mobilised to initiate without any further delay, pilot Glaucoma control projects in as many countries as possible.”