"Fred Hollows believed that the toughest places in the world to work are usually the places with the greatest need," – Brian Doolan, The Foundation's CEO.
After two decades of violence, Afghanistan’s health system has largely been destroyed.
Only one third of young children are underweight and only half 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 difficult security conditions, working with our local partners, The Foundation:
- Performed 1,030 cataract operations and 244 other sight saving or improving interventions
- Trained 71 community health workers
- Screened 52,674 people for eye disease and a further 29,074 children through our school screening program
- Trained 644 teachers to detect and refer eye diseases and trained another 71 community health workers in primary eye care.
About the program
Around 465,000 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 two million people.
We are training surgeons in the latest Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) 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 units in Nangarhar and Laghman Provinces, working with partners to provide essential and quality eye care services.
We also 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.
Facts and figures
|Number of blind people||465,000|
|National blindness prevalence||1.5 - 2%|
|Main causes of blindness||cataract (60%), trachoma (15%), corneal opacity (15%) Blindness due to eye injuries is also very common and one of the leading cause of blindness in Afghanistan.|
|Number of cataract operations performed annually||15,000 (backlog of cataract surgeries 200,000)|
|Number of ophthalmologists||130 (around 70 are trained IOL surgeons, 6 trained in community ophthalmology)|
|Reasons for low cataract surgical rates and backlog||Lack of trained personnel and supplies and concentration of eye services in cities / developed areas that make access impossible for poor (particularly female) patients.|
|Life expectancy||49.1 years|
|Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||103|
|Children (0-5) underweight for age||33%|
|Number of doctors (per 10,000 people)||2|
Sources: UNDP Human Development Report 2013, UNICEF Afghanistan Country Office Fact Sheet 2011
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