Empowering Tanzanian Healthcare: ECF’s Long-term Vision

Explore ECF’s transformative journey in Tanzania, where eye care was a critical need. From training programs to project expansions, discover how ECF has revolutionized eye health in the region.

East-African country Tanzania lags far behind when it comes to eye care. There are barely any ophthalmologists and governmental health is focused largely on Mother and Child Health, fighting malaria and the treatment of HIV. In Tanzania, ECF therefore continues to emphasize the importance of transferring knowledge and expertise. From 2008 to 2017, a number of Dutch ophthalmologists traveled to the university training course facility in Moshi, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC). The students followed both theoretical and practical classes given by the doctors for a few months. Coen Koppert, one of the ophthalmologists, has travelled to Moshi annually almost from the start.

ECF first started operations in Tanzania in 2006, where the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) in Moshi had just decided to increase the flow of patients to the eye clinics. This was accomplished by offering 165 village elders a course in basic eye health. In the two years that followed, among others religious leaders in the villages were also trained.

In 2009 American pediatric ophthalmologist Lee Woodward came to KCMC in Moshi. ECF supported him in setting up the training course in pediatric ophthalmology.

In 2015, ECF had a trip to Tanzania to visit its project in Moschi. During this visit ECF was asked to support an eye care project in the Morogoro region. The outcome was positive and that very same year money was made available to train eye doctors. In 2016, a survey was conducted in the entire Morogoro region to make a RAAB (Rapid assessment of avoidable blindness) of the nature and scope of eye disorders. The results were subsequently shared in a workshop with national, regional and district eye care coordinators and with the policy makers and planners of the regions and districts. During these workshops the needs in the districts were inventoried and charted. In 2017 the project partner, with help from an external consultant, drew up a project proposal.

The first eye camp in Morogoro, 2018

MOROGORO

Morogoro is a region in the southeast of Tanzania. The region is approximately twice the size of the Netherlands and has a population of around 2.2 million. Residents of Morogoro often have to walk long distances to reach the district or regional hospitals. These hospitals, however, do not have eye care services due to a chronic lack of eye care, instruments and facilities in the area. This serious shortage of qualified eye care staff is one of the biggest obstacles in providing adequate eye health services to eye patients in the country. In 2015 the Regional health Department in Morogoro has asked ECF to support eye health related activities and infrastructure in the region.

The project’s goal, among others, is to strengthen eye care services by improving capacity. Acquiring more skills and increased knowledge on the subject of eye care will lead to quicker and more accurate diagnoses by the community health workers in the districts and, where necessary, to quicker referrals of patients to the hospitals. Eye care departments in district hospital receive support from ECF and are trained to give their patients proper, quality eye care. Awareness promoting activities on eye health in the community will lead to patients seeking treatment independently and sooner so that the eye health network can then refer them to the appropriate eye care facility. These eye care services should be accessible and affordable. The project is intended specially to help the most vulnerable eye patients in the community, such as women and children.

 

Since 2018, Daniel Wilbard runs our Tanzanian activities. In 2010, eye diseases were ranked tenth among the top ten diseases in Tanzania. In 2017 prevalence of blindness was estimated to be at 2.8 %, significantly higher than the world average of 0.48 %. ECF is accelerating efforts to improve eye care services in Tanzania. Eye health seeking behaviour has increased since ECF started in Tanzania with the treatment of people with cataracts and screening people for eye conditions. The end goal is to contribute to the elimination of avoidable blindness and visual impairment in Tanzania. For that, ECF will need to increase coverage to other areas.

We trained more Ophthalmologist in this region

Funded the eye clinic which will reduce the traveling distance for patients to access eye care