Globally, around 39 million people or one in 200 are blind (WHO 2015). Approximately 246 million are visually impaired, with staggering implications not just on quality of life but on the wider economy.
Uganda, with a population estimated to be over 41 million and prevalence of blindness of about 1%, ophthalmology remains a neglected public health issue with limited data on the prevalence of visual impairment overall. There is approximately one ophthalmologist to a million plus of the population and one ophthalmic clinical officer to 205,000.00 of the population.
Despite the above however, there is hope. This is because half of all blind people who have lost their sight due to preventable causes such as cataracts can now be routinely fixed. Although this is still tragically a common cause of blindness in developing countries such as Uganda, with strong support and teamwork, initiatives such as The Project Uganda can have a far-reaching positive effect. Through shared learning and co-development platforms such as Uganda UK Health Alliance (UUKHA), and public-private partnerships/collaborations such as Lubaga Hospital and affiliated organisations including; Helping Uganda Schools (HUGS)-Sight repair project, Vision 2020 and COECSA, we can reduce avoidable blindness in Uganda and give hope to many, especially the vulnerable children and those in rural communities.
With support from the people of Uganda, our ultimate goal is to create The Ugandan Eye Teaching Hospital and Research Institute of Ophthalmology, a Centre of Excellence in training eye care practitioners and professionals, research and treatment. This will be patterned on internationally recognised ophthalmic institutions such as Moorfields Eye Hospital and SEE International for additional support. The priority is to create capacity first, on major ophthalmic diseases such as diabetic/medical retina, glaucoma and so on.
We will also need strong Optometric backup. Thanks to HUGS charity, support has already been offered towards this. They will sponsor 2 students each year until 6 are enrolled in the course after 3 years. This is a wonderful gift for Uganda and we look forward to a selection of suitable representatives. Thank you so much HUGS!
Working with world-renowned institutions such as Moorfields, coupled with support via HUGS Charity and humanitarian organisations such as SEE International, key objectives including teaching, skills transfer, capacity building will be achieved. Creating a long-term sustainable and self-sustaining solution through the above will ensure that Ugandans can deliver world-class eye care for themselves.
A Research arm will be necessary to add to the above because it’s only by discovering new things and treatments that allow the development of future therapies for Uganda and the ophthalmic pathologies/manifestations unique to Uganda.