NIURE Programme Nearing Completion

Massive positive impact on lives of Ugandans with refractive errors
Photo: Optometrist presenting locally adapted high-quality spectacles at Entebbe, Uganda.

Uncorrected refractive error – or, to put it more simply: much-needed corrective devices like spectacles being unavailable – has a vast impact on the lives of c. 153 million people worldwide, ranging from hampered performance at school to reduced employability. The diagnosis and correction of refractive errors rank among the most cost-effective interventions in health care provision. Unsurprisingly, 90% of those affected live in low and middle income countries, compounding the vicious circle of systemic poverty and disability.

NIURE – a pilot programme for Uganda

For the past nine years, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD together with Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation (BHVI) has been supporting the Ugandan Ministry of Health in setting up the National Intervention on Uncorrected Refractive Errors (NIURE), a sustainable programme with the aim of providing locally adapted high quality spectacles to poor people.
When NIURE started its activities in 2008, provision of optical services was limited to a few ophthalmologists concentrated in urban centres, accessible only to a minority who could afford it. Less than 20% of the population had access to adequate primary eye care including refraction services. To date, through NIURE’s achievements this coverage has more than doubled to 40-50% and is set to continue to increase as local training of optometrists and refractionists has been established at Makerere and Entebbe.

Onwards to long-term sustainability

The initial stages of NIURE are now being phased out. A memorandum was signed between the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Entebbe General Hospital, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD and BHVI. It ensures that essential NIURE coordination staff are incorporated within public service using revolving funds generated by the programme itself, essentially making it self-financing. Central coordination will be handed over to the Ministry and Makerere University in 2018.