"Fred Hollows believed that the toughest places in the world to work are usually the places with the greatest need," says Brian Doolan, The Foundation's CEO.
After two decades of violence, Afghanistan’s health system has largely been destroyed.
One in five children die before the age of five and only a quarter of the population has access to a safe water supply.
The vast majority of Afghanis have limited access to eye care services as 87% of the ophthalmic workforce is based in major cities and only 13% in rural areas.
The Foundation began work in Afghanistan in 2006, contributing to the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health’s five-year national plan.
We are working with local partners to incorporate eye care into primary health care systems and to develop secondary eye care centres at provincial and district levels.
We focus on training so that local medical workers can service the high demand for eye health services, making the eye care system sustainable.
"The success of this program shows us that even in a country as war-torn as Afghanistan, practical measures can be taken to develop medical infrastructure and improve the lives of those who are disadvantaged by avoidable blindness." - Brian Doolan, CEO
Despite a difficult security situation, The Foundation worked together with our local partners to:
- Perform 729 cataract operations and 98 other sight saving or improving interventions
- Train four surgeons, two clinic support staff and 154 community health workers
- Test the eyes of 49,972 boys and girls in Jalalabad schools and train 250 school teachers to detect eye disease
- Open a Community Vision Centre at a hospital in Laghman Province, and fund the salary of its first eye surgeon – eye health services are now available to the local population of 380,000 for the first time
- Screen 73,145 people
- Hold three outreach eye clinics across the country.
About the program
Around 500,000 people in Afghanistan are blind, with a high incidence of cataract and trachoma – diseases that are largely treatable and/or preventable.
The Foundation works with local partners at district and community level in Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman provinces to serve a population of over one million people.
We are training surgeons in the latest manual cataract small incision surgical techniques, training paramedics to become ophthalmic technicians, training refractionists to improve their skills and capacity, and training hospital staff in project management.
We have established a Community Vision Centre (CVC) in Kunar Province in addition to the fully functional eye unit in Nangarhar Province, working with partners to provide essential and quality eye care services.
We support/run free eye camps and school screening camps where students and members of the public are provided with glasses where necessary, operated on, or referred on for further treatment.
We also conduct community eye health awareness campaigns, using banners and public announcements in local languages.
Facts and figures
|Number of blind people||500,000|
|National blindness prevalence||1.5 - 2%|
|Main causes of blindness||cataract (40%), trachoma (15%), corneal opacity (15%)|
|Number of cataract operations performed annually||15,000|
|Number of ophthalmologists||118 (only 40 are trained IOL surgeons, 5 trained in community ophthalmology)|
|Reasons for low cataract surgical rates and backlog||Lack of trained personnel and supplies|
|Life expectancy||48.7 years|
|Infant mortality rate||103 per 1,000 births|
|Children (0-5) underweight for age||33%|
|Number of doctors (per 10,000 people)||2|
Sources: UNDP Human Development Report 2010 & 2011, UNICEF State of the World's Children Report 2012
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