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Irish Aid supporting eye care services in Africa

Health, News/feature, Africa, South Africa, 2016
Irish Aid supporting eyecare in Africa

Supporting Eyecare in Africa

There are an estimated 9 million blind people in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 27 million people are visually impaired. There is a marked shortage of eye care personnel and current eye care services are grossly inadequate

Over the last three years, Dublin Institute of Technology, in partnership with the Brien Holden Vision Institute (South Africa), Mzuzu University (Malawi) and the African Vision Research Institute (South Africa), have been implementing an Irish Aid-funded (€458,022) Human Resource Development for Eye Health programme across ten universities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Current eye care services in Sub Saharan Africa are grossly inadequate

The aim of the Eye Health programme is to improve the training of local eye care professionals through the development of optometry schools at ten African Universities in collaboration with Irish third level institutions. 

The project aims to:

  • increase the number of skilled eye care professionals;
  • develop a standard eye care curriculum for optometry schools across Africa that respond to the shortage of health workers in this area and help provide quality eye care service delivery; and
  • help achieve overall Irish Aid / International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and broader development goals that seek to reduce poverty, inequality and exclusion in developing countries. 

Under the Eye Health programme, seven optometry lecturers have been enrolled into a research-based Masters in Optometry degree course at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. A junior faculty member, Kanuti Siara, from Tanzania, has been supported to complete an Upgrading BSc in Optometry programme at Mzuzu University in Malawi. 

In addition, 43 lecturers have been enrolled into an Eye Teach Programme to help improve their teaching, clinical and research skills. Eye Teach has since focused on lecturers from six Universities and enabled them to receive expert advice on improving their knowledge and skills in advanced optometry clinical procedures. 

A further 26 optometry school Heads and Deans have participated in a Leadership and Management course to improve their management of schools. 12 Heads of Department and Deans have completed Quality Assurance and Social Accountability workshops to improve their programmes in these two important areas for education. 

The Eye Health programme is part of Irish Aid’s wider Programme for Strategic Cooperation which promotes linkages and co-operation in research and teaching between higher education and research institutions in Ireland and their counterparts in countries supported by Irish Aid. The Programme for Strategic Cooperation has generated significant new knowledge, strengthened networks and partnerships and built capacity within universities and learning institutions across Africa. 

Find out more about Irish Aid’s programme for Strategic Cooperation