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First ever glaucoma toolkit for Sub-Saharan Africa

Isabel Antonio, die an grünem Star leidet mit ihren zwei Kindern
  • Eye Health

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.

an older Mozambican woman with a blue and white patterned headscarf sits on a bamboo mat in front of her house. she holds her young granddaugther on her lap and her grandson with albinism sits next to her.
Isabel Antonio is sitting with her grandchildren on a bamboo mat in front her house. © Light for the World

This glaucoma 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.

Isabel António struggled with vision problems for decades. She was repeatedly in at the hospital, but the glaucoma was missed each time. She was diagnosed only three years ago, 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.

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.” 

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