The National Eye Health Programme (NEHP), under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, has given the opportunity to journalists to tour its surgical Unit which culminated in information sharing and question and answer session last Tuesday at the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre in Kanifing. This was during the presentation of a donation of surgical kits to the National Eye Care Programme by the US based “Helpmesee” organisation.
Sarjo Kanyi, Manager of NEHP, said the Programme is recognised globally as a role model because of the design and strategies it used to establish eye care services which have reduced blindness prevalence from 0.7% to 0.4% and being a level comparable to developed countries, despite the growing increase in the population.
The NEHP Manager said the support came after the Gambian ministry of health signed a memorandum of understanding with “Helpmesee” whose main objective is to eliminate cataract blindness in the world. He said the Gambia has attained the increased cataract surgical rate (CSR) which is a target set by the international community as an indicator of good service coverage. With this development, he said, the Gambia was among the best performing countries in terms of eye care.
Mr. Kanyi noted that the design of the NEHP has made it possible to establish eye care services that meet the eye health needs of the population by making services easily accessible, affordable acceptable and of high quality.
He said following a prevalence survey of Blindness and Eye Diseases in 1986, the leading causes of blindness were Cataract 47%, Trachoma 17%, and other corneal Opacities mainly associated with childhood measles or harmful traditional eye medicines at 11%.
Professor Kayode Odusote, Consultant at Helpmesee, said his organisation started in 2010 with the goal of making the miracle of sight possible for every blind child and adult in the world, regardless of where they live or how poor they may be. He said their goal is to deliver low cost, high quality manual small incision Cataract surgeries (MSICS) to millions of children and adults in the developing world.
“Helpmesee is an ambitious campaign to eliminate cataract blindness worldwide by training tens of thousands MSICS specialists as well as partnering with existing MSICS surgeons in the developing world performing MSICS in their communities,” said Professor Odusote.
The Helpmesee Consultant disclosed that they are going to make surgical kits free of charge to the Government of the Gambia, adding that the charges by the government would be minimal.
He revealed to the journalists that they can be able to operate cataract on 300 to 500 people per month.
Professor Odusote said his organisation is committed to saving the sight of millions and they are working with 93 practising partner MSIC surgeons in China, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo, and have restored or saved the sight of over 100,000 people.
The Helmesee Consultant concluded that their campaign to eliminate cataract blindness is built on five critical components and these are: eliminating the cataract surgical backlog in developing countries by delivering 60 to 70 million high quality, high volume, cost effective cataract surgeries to millions of children and adults amongst other things.
Dr. Andre Jean-Maric, a French surgeon working with Helpmesee, also told the reporters those surgical kits are quicker and reliable for surgery.
The session was chaired by Mr. Amadou Bah, acting CEO of Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre.