Workshop on developing Glaucoma Toolkit for Sub-Saharan Africa

A group of high-level glaucoma experts and general ophthalmologists came together in Addis Ababa/Ethiopia.

The „Silent Thief of Sight“, glaucoma, leads to irreversible blindness. The burden is disproportionally high in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a prevalence of the group of diseases about twice as high as in Europe and up to 8%. Being the second leading cause of blindness and accounting for 8% of the 39 million blind worldwide, in SSA it accounts to 15% of blindness and in some countries it is even the first cause of blindness. With the right treatment glaucoma can be stopped and blindness avoided. But it is often not addressed systematically, despite the existence of guidelines for glaucoma management.

Blindness from glaucoma is avoidable and it is ethically unacceptable to do nothing about it. Therefore, the international disability and development organization Light for the World – motivated by experiences from their own comprehensive eye health work in several African countries - decided to develop a programme to accelerate finding solutions to this challenge.

On February 11th to 12th a group of high-level glaucoma experts and general ophthalmologists came together for a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to develop a practical glaucoma toolkit for Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Participants represented all Sub Saharan African regions as well as global and regional eye health organisations such as the International Council of Ophthalmology, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), 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, the Nigerian and South African Glaucoma Societies, as well as the scientific community and major international training institutions.

Hosted by the Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia and jointly organized with the international disability and development organisation Light for the World, the event was led by Dr Fatima Kyari, Glaucoma specialist and sub-regional IAPB co-chair for Anglophone West Africa.

The group was able to develop the crucial outline for a practical tool-kit on glaucoma management for Sub-Saharan Africa which will complement the important resources existing already, such as the ICO and COECSA Glaucoma Guidelines. The tool-kit, developed and owned by African glaucoma specialists, will be instrumental to guide ophthalmologists and glaucoma specialists to set up integrated glaucoma care services adequate to their very own context and to strengthen the health systems sustainably. 

It will contain practical steps towards diagnosis of glaucoma, risk assessment for progression and management decisions, as well as specific guidance for treatment and referral to the key resources.

A first edition of tool-kit is intended to be launched around World Sight Day 2019. This is but a first important step to systematically tackle Glaucoma in Africa, but in its character and dynamic, unprecedented.

All institutions interested in fighting avoidable glaucoma blindness in Africa are welcome to join the movement to bring about maximum impact. Please contact s.schneider [at] light-for-the-world.org or fatimaygk [at] gmail.com