New survey highlights need for improved services to prevent blindness in Ivory Coast

Posted on: Monday, 10th April, 2017
Gondo is from Burkina Faso and is visually imapired.

Recent research in Ivory Coast, West Africa, has highlighted the urgent need to improve eye health services to prevent blindness.

One of CBM’s programmes in Cote d’Ivoire supported a study in three regions which found that 3% of people aged 50 or over were blind and in over 60% of cases, sight could have been restored with treatment such as cataract surgery. In a further 27% of cases, blindness could have been prevented if it had been treated in time.

By far the leading cause of blindness was untreated cataract – responsible for nearly 60% of all cases. Although cataracts can be removed with straightforward surgery, less than half of the people needing cataract surgery received it. The two leading barriers to treatment identified were cost and inability to access services, while 16% of those who needed surgery did not even know treatment was available.  

The Director Coordinator of the PNSOLO (National programme for eye health and fight against onchocerciases), Kouakou Marie Madeleine said:

 “This is an unprecedented study in its scope and subject in Côte d'Ivoire. The results in the three regions show the extent of the task that remains to be accomplished. The Ministry of Health throughout the PNSOLO will use the study as an advocacy tool to create more awareness and promote activities in this area. The study also demonstrates how important it is to implement health public policies that enable populations to access eye health at all levels of the "health pyramid" from primary health centres to regional or national hospitals. Thanks to CBM’s project we now have an eye doctor working in San Pedro providing affordable cataract surgery.”

The CBM-supported study examined over 3600 men and women in Gbokle, Nawa and San Pédro regions in south west Ivory Coast, using the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness methodology developed by the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH). It was led by Dr Théodore Kadima Mutombo, one the few consultant accredited by RAAB came from Kinshasa, Congo to train fellow Ivorian ophthalmologists to conduct the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness 

The new results will be used by the Health Ministry and National Eye Health Programme in Ivory Coast to help raise awareness of the need for eye health services and increase resources available to prevent blindness.

Key findings:

  • 3800 men and women took part in the study in November 2016, of whom 3612 were examined.
  • 3.1% people over 50 were blind (with a visual acuity less than 3/60) while a further 11.2% were living with  moderate or severe visual impairment.
  • In 63.6% of cases, blindness was treatable and in a further 27.3% could have been prevented with the right  treatment.
  • Untreated cataract accounted for 59% of blindness, with other significant causes including non trachomatous corneal opacity (9.1%) and Glaucoma (8.2%).
  • Women were significantly less likely to have had cataract surgery than men – only 37.8% women who needed it had received surgery, compared to 49.3% men

Read more about our work improving access to cataract surgery in Ivory Coast.

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