Let’s open our eyes on Togo

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In the African country projects for the prevention of blindness are in progress, from ophthalmological screenings to cataract surgery

visite_oculistiche_in_togo-14-ok-ottotipo-albero-600pix.jpgThere is a region in the north of the African State of Togo (Bassar area) where sight disorders are particularly widespread.

Precisely for this reason a mass screening was organized: the last stage took place from Monday 6 May to Friday 10 May 2019 by the association “Fon.T.Es-So.T.Es-Togo”.

This mass screening entails the carrying out a total of approximately 3,000 eye examinations on people suffering from eye diseases. At the time of writing, about 1,500 examinations have been performed and 500 pairs of glasses have been donated. Furthermore, out of about 120 surgical procedures have been scheduled.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy firmly believes in this project and actively supports it with a contribution.

These illnesses could easily be avoided by adopting simple preventive measures, but only less than a quarter of the rural population can be treated. The causes are varied and can mainly be linked to the lack of facilities and resources: the excessive cost of actually travelling to clinics and hospitals, unusable roads, the lack of ophthalmic centres, fear or distrust and the lack of information.

To compensate for these difficulties the association “Fon.T.Es-So.T.Es-Togo” has organized a mass screening that also includes cataract interventions.

In addition to cataracts, the project aims to prevent trachoma, vitamin A deficiency (xeroftalmia), pterygium and damage caused by glaucoma, in the rural populations.

OTHER INITIATIVES IN TOGO

visita_oculistica-togo-web.jpgSince 2015 IAPB Italy has collaborated with the aforementioned association – also supported by the Italian association, Gruppo San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francesco of Assisi Group) – for the setting up of a medical-social centre, complete with ophthalmology and school integration services, in Lomé (Togo).

WE HELP THE AFRICAN COUNTRY

The boarding school, which houses a hundred pupils (nursery, intermediate and high school), is run entirely by Togolese personnel and offers an education to blind children, almost all of whom are from very poor families, who live in a vast area of the African country.

It is, in fact, the only structure existing in that huge region, designated to blind children who unfortunately, due to the precarious hygiene and health conditions, represent a significant part of the child population. Overall it is a small reality that operates with scarce resources in a context in which the problems relating to blindness are devastating and where the fundamental tools for prophylaxis are lacking.

A PROJECT THAT LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

attesa_per_una_visita_medica_in_togo-web-600pix.jpgThe IAPB Italy (our non-profit organization) decided to collaborate on the setting up of a medical-social centre connected to the school facility, by firstly providing financial aid and then by contributing to the organization and structuring of the centre itself.

Source: Fon.T.Es-So.T.Es-Togo

Burkina Faso

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IAPB fights blindness and visual impairment in the African country in close collaboration with eye clinics, ASL (Italian local health authorities) and the Tuscany Region. Our missions have also continued this year, with positive results.

EYES POINTED ON BURKINA FASO

missione-burkina-faso-iapb_toscana-foto_copyright_andrea_gianfortuna.jpgWe fight blindness and visual impairment in Burkina Faso, a West African country, considered the poorest state in the world. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness – IAPB Italy onlus, thanks to its Tuscan regional committee, has been commissioned by the Regional Government of Tuscany to implement an eye support project for the African state. In this context, the missions of ophthalmologists and nurses have continued also in 2018, often involving the training of local staff (the same activity also takes place in Italy); the first mission was carried out in 2009.

We would also like to inform you that an IAPB Tuscany mission, held from 8th to 12th April 2016, brought into operation an ophthalmology operating theatre in the capital city of the country, Ouagadougou; thanks to the new equipment, it is probably today one of the best equipped operating facilities in sub-Saharan Africa.

There is constant contact between IAPB Tuscany and the Camillian fathers of Burkina Faso. For example, on 7th May 2015 an agreement was signed to intensify relations with the eye health professionals operating in the country.

THE ACTION LINE

The philosophy is the same that animated Vision 2020, a program to eliminate preventable blindness in the world, that was then merged into the WHO Action Plan. Thanks to the efforts of IAPB Tuscany it was possible, among other things, to renovate an ophthalmic operating theatre in Léo (a city with about 350,000 inhabitants) and acquire the necessary surgical equipment. It is estimated that 150,000 people living in Burkina Faso suffer from blindness caused by cataracts and could recover their sight with a simple surgical procedure

However, the objective is not to guarantee ongoing aid, but to ensure that local staff learn how to work independently, by carrying out necessary eye care. It is precisely in this spirit that nurses have been, and are still being trained in ophthalmology: these professional figures are fundamental in Africa because there is often a shortage of eye specialists, who conversely frequently leave the continent to work abroad.

CHECK UPS IN SOUTH BURKINA

Screenings are essential, and are carried out,in the province of Léo (in south Burkina Faso). Among the partners of the project, it’s important to mention the eye clinics of Florence, Pisa and Siena, the Meyer Pediatric Hospital as well as the operative Units of Ophthalmology of the ASL of the Tuscan capital, of Pistoia, Lucca, Prato and Massa Carrara. The project clearly shows the aim of strengthening the relations and synergies with the WHO and the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health.

On 2nd February 2013 a team of specialists from the University of Siena and the ASL of the same city, returned from Burkina Faso. Overall, 80 surgical interventions were performed in that phase, and 270 people were visited. Furthermore, on 28th January 2013, a technician arrived in Ouagadougou to set up a surgical microscope at the Hôpital Saint Camille. Since1st February of the same year, a new ophthalmic operating room has been operative in the same health facility, with which a fruitful collaboration has been started. We have also been working on the development of a new eye centre in the city of Léo.

FACTS AND PROJECTS

In June 2016, an IAPB Tuscany mission was carried out at the Saint Camille Hospital in Ouagadougou. The work of the staff of the University of Florence eye clinic tirelessly continues and have another two missions planned for the autumn of 2016. Among other things, interventions on the vitreous body (its removal and substitution with a buffering medium: vitrectomia) have been performed. All initiatives are carried out in collaboration with the Tuscany region.

Trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness) are among the diseases we are trying to eradicate, especially in Africa. Childhood blindness is also a scourge that needs to be faced. In many cases, a simple pair of glasses is enough to allow children to read and go to school. In fact, in addition to fighting blindness, our missions also aim to visual impairment. This activity is important, especially in the midst of all of Africa’s needs, where even just an eye careproject can mark the difference between a life spent in darkness and one, so to speak, in full daylight.


(Photo credits: kind granting of Andrea Gianfortuna per IAPB Toscana – copyright of the authorPhotogallery)


Congo, albinos more protected from the sun

Bambino albino

Bimba albina con la madre in Congo

Preventing burns and eye damage is essential as a child

Preventing sun damage that can affect albinos: this is the main purpose of the project carried out, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by Magic Amor, a non-profit organization, in collaboration with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy and the company Salmoiraghi & Viganò, which donated dark glasses to hundreds of children.

The retina of those suffering from albinism is pigment-free or contains a reduced amount of pigment; albino children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are particularly vulnerable. Therefore, eyeglasses with filters in compliance with the law (against ultraviolet rays) are necessary, in order to avoid irreversible eye damage. Also their skin contains little or no melanin, making it necessary to use high protection sunscreen. For this reason it was necessary to promote a project that involved decisive and concrete actions both in Italy and in the African country.

bimbi albini nella Repubblica Democratica del CongoIn June 2008 the Magic Amor association went to the town of Gemena, which is located in the North-West of the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the Equator villages, in order to follow the associative projects (a primary school for 6,752 children, conferences on responsible hygiene, maternity and paternity, rotational agriculture, family adoptions, etc.).

More than half of the albino children lived in families with two or more siblings already affected by albinism. The solar damage prevention plan in albinos was implemented in several phases in the Central African state as follows:

  • Preliminary phase: communication of the message to the population and invitation to albino residents to participate in a preliminary meeting
  • Meetings with local albinos and local people in different villages and in the town of Gemena
  • Albino census
  • Individual visit to assess the state of health and any injuries that could lead to cancer
  • Donation to albinos of protective glasses (Uva/Uvb) and sunscreen with a high degree of protection (donated by some pharmacies).

In the city of Gemena the meeting led to the establishment of an association of albino patients with the purpose of integration, while avoiding serious discrimination to which they are often also subject in other African countries. The project has achieved its short term goals and has created fruitful contacts. Future developments could include new meetings in the African country and further donations. Albinos are often subject to nystagmus (inability to fixation); moreover, they are frequently affected by visual defects, so regular specialist visits are necessary in addition to the use of sun glasses and, if necessary, corrective ones. A contribution that, in African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, can mean saving sight while preserving the quality of life and the dignity of the albinos.

Fighting trachoma in Morocco

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A protocol signed by IAPB Italy and the Ministry of Health of Morocco

marocco-firma_accordo_a_rabat-2.jpgThe fight against trachoma in Morocco, a severe ocular disease of bacterial origin that afflicts Africa and can cause blindness, is the main objective of a cooperation protocol signed between the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy, the Alaouite organization for the protection of the blind (OAPAM) and the Ministry of Health of Morocco.

The first agreement was signed in Rabat on 4th October 2005, but the most recent castronovo_giuseppe-presidente_iapb_italia_onlus-ritratto-web.jpg modification was signed on 11th July 2008 by Yasmina Baddou, Morocco’s Minister of Health, as part of a national plan for the eradication of blindness; on behalf of IAPB Italy, the document was signed by its President, the lawyer Giuseppe Castronovo.

This international protocol provides, on the one hand, for trachoma to be fought in five different provinces of Morocco; on the other hand, for funds to be designated for cataract surgery in an ophthalmic hospital in a poor area (called El Haouz), also through the supply of equipment to the local health system. All of this respecting the guidelines laid down by the WHO, which is implementing the Vision2020 global initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020 with the IAPB.

bambini_ciechi_e_ipovedenti_sui_banchi-2.jpgThe battle against trachoma has been included by the Moroccan Ministry of Health in the National Action Plan for the period 2012-2016. Morocco has also strengthened its partnership with the WHO and IAPB Italy onlus. In fact, a 2013 WHO document states that the north-African country has provided for the consolidation of procedures to eradicate trachoma by means of a monitoring system. This system was activated following an assessment survey conducted in 2009, with two meetings of experts held in 2008 and 2010.

See also: “Who Report of the 17th Meeting of the Who Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma, Geneva, 22–24 April 2013”

Ethiopia, clean water against trachoma

Etiopia bambini

113 wells made with the contribution of IAPB Italy

The sight of Africa’s poverty can be painful. It is the continent where the tragedy of disease, starting from those affecting sight, is present more than anywhere else. This is why the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB Italy) actively supports a project to bring clean water to Ethiopia, particularly in the Amhara region, in order to combat trachoma (which causes preventable blindness).

A total of 113 manual water wells have been built, allowing the local population to draw clean water, providing them with hope and helping prevent severe disease. A delegation from IAPB Italy was in Ethiopia from 22nd to 28th April 2008, to evaluate the current health and humanitarian situation, , accompanied by journalists(the mission was arranged in cooperation with CBM Italia onlus).

The project for the construction of the wells, which dates back to 2006, has been inspired by the motto “Surgery and Antibiotics”, but also by the importance of facial cleanness and environmental remediation, which are referred to with the acronym SAFE (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanness and Environmental sanitation).

The ultimate objective is to eliminate blindness caused by trachoma by 2020, one of the goals of the WHO. To stop trachoma, an eye infection caused by a bacterium (Chlamydia Tracomatis), hygienic measures are imperative, starting with the use of clean water. Thanks to the project supported by IAPB Italy, it was possible to improve the overall state of health of the rural population in the area of Ethiopia where the intervention took place.

During 2006 we worked towards various objectives, including:
1) increasing the level of safe water supplies in the 19 districts of the Amhara region by about 10%;
2) improving the level of facial hygiene in children (from one to nine years old) within the districts by about 25%;
3) Reducing the prevalence of trachoma and other waterborne diseases by 25% among children.

Specific objectives:
1) construction of 120 water supply points;
2) training of 240 “water custodians”, who will monitor and maintain the water supply points, and ensure the correct use of resources;
3) creation of 120 committees to monitor water supply and health condtions. In this way the sustainability of the project is assured, thanks to the participation of entire communities in the prevention of possible abuses;
4) supply of drinking water for the improvement of personal and environmental hygiene to more than 60,000 people in the selected area, through the construction of 83 wells with hand pumps;
5) reduction of the time taken by women to reach a water source.

The water sources previously available consisted of wells generally dug by hand or sources that were often contaminated. The water distribution network is able to cover an area equal to 31% of the entire Amhara area (rural area 23%, urban area 96%). Furthermore, the rural population has limited access to the more efficient water supply services. The situation is even worse when it comes to health services, which cover only 6% of the region (rural area 3%, urban area 37%) and the number of actual toilets built in the countryside is very low. The majority of the population ignore the basic rules of personal hygiene and environmental remediation.

The project strongly supported and financed by IAPB Italy as well as by CBM Italy, has been entrusted to a local Ngo, with a great deal of experience in the supply of water, ORDA (Organization for rehabilitation and development in Amhara). The Lions Club has also contributed.

Amhara is one of the 11 autonomous regions of Ethiopia and it is located in the north of the country. The population was estimated to be 18 million people in 1997, of which 11% live in urban areas and the remaining 89% in rural areas. This part of the territory, divided into 11 administrative areas and 115 districts, is densely populated and is mainly composed of the Amhara ethnic group.

About 60% of the rural population live in mountainous areas, affected by an inadequate road connections to the regional capital. The majority of the infrastructure is located in the lower part of the mountains. The topographical features make the traditional supply of water to the local communities even more difficult.

Data on blindness and visual impairment in Ethiopia are as follows: out of about 77 million inhabitants, blind people make up approximately 1.6% (1,200,000) of the population, while visually impaired people total 3.7% (2,800,000); finally there are about 9 million children suffering from trachoma, equal to 40% of the age group up to 9 years old.

Ophthalmology Congress in Marrakesh: 20th-25th June 2007

Marrakesh

MOROCCO, FIGHTING BLINDNESS WITH IAPB ITALY

From 20th to 25th June 2007 the 14th Afro-Asiatic Congress of ophthalmology was held in Marrakesh


Addressing the problems of vision at an international level, intervening where possible to prevent blindness by supporting developing countries. In this spirit IAPB Italy participated in the 14th Afro-Asiatic Congress of Ophthalmology that was held in Marrakesh from 20th to 25th June 2007. Among the themes discussed at the congress were retinal diseases, glaucoma and other eye illnesses.

A meeting of the board of the Task Force for Low Vision for the Mediterranean was held as a part of the Afro-Asiatic congress. During the session dedicated to this meeting on 24th June, several reports were presented, which dealt with various themes, such as visual impairment awareness, the role of the ophthalmologist and orthoptist and the rehabilitation of patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

IAPB Italy also participated in the IAPB-Emro session (with the countries of the Middle-East), during which proposals for aid were launched on the basis of the requests that emerged and the needs of the various States.

IAPB Italy carries out a vigours fight against blindness, with particular determination in the Mediterranean area and developing countries. With this in mind, at the end of 2005, an agreement was signed between, on one side, IAPB Italy – represented by President Giuseppe Castronovo – and OAPAM (Morocco’s Alouite Organisation for the protection of the Blind), and on the other, the Morocco Ministry of Health. This agreement provided for the financing of various ophthalmic equipment for the two centres in Rabat (Moulay Youssef hospital) and Tangiers (Kortobi hospital). In short, it is a cooperation agreement that aimed to combat blindness by providing appropriate equipment for eye examinations and cataract surgery, a disease that can lead tolens opacity.

The project was part of a global fight against blindness, which aimed to eliminate the avoidable causes by the end of the decade (Vision 2020: the Right to Sight first, “Universal Eye Health: a Global Action Plan 2014-2019” by WHO later). This strategy was adopted and applied with conviction and strength by IAPB Italy.

On 15 November 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Morocco (read more).

Among developing countries, Morocco itself represented a very successful model of healthcare strategy and planning of interventions in the fight against avoidable blindness. The trachoma control program was one of the most important practices.

Furthermore, the adoption of a national blindness prevention program, VISION2020, and of a national committee, ensured the identification of intervention priorities and the unity of action to curable blindness.

The financial commitment, which run from 2006 to 2008, consisted of intervention projects, including the provision of ophthalmic equipment in the peripheral centres that lack instruments fo rbasic surgeries.

With reference to the campaigns for the surgical removal of cataracts , the specific objective was to create mobile surgery units for interventions in areas that were not catered for by the national health system.

The phases of intervention were:
a) identification of the areas of intervention;
b) identification of the reference population;
c) financing of the program.

Furthermore, with reference to the treatment of visual impairment and vision rehabilitation the specific objective was to offer a vision rehabilitation service to people with untreatable pathologies.

The actions envisaged were as follows:
a) identification of the reference area;
b) identification of patients to be included in the program;
c) the creation of a service for visually impaired people in a healthcare facility (hospital);
d) follow-up of assisted patients.

The intention was to successfully implement the initiatives aimed at drastically improving the serious condition of the population affected by treatable blindness. This important initiative, in the spirit of international cooperation, was aimed at translating into concrete actions the right to sight of every individual, so that they could exercise their own freedom and live their lives in a dignified way: new possibilities of care had to be given, returning hope back to patients and their families.

Combating blindness also means fighting against poverty: if vision loss is prevented, a further obstacle to development is removed in countries that need to grow economically and socially.

Tunis – Task Force for Low Vision – June 2007

International Task Force for Low Vision Tunisi

THE INTERNATIONAL TASK FORCE FOR LOW VISION IN TUNIS

The initiative, which was joined by several Mediterranean Countries, was also promoted by the President of IAPB Italy

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After its formation in Taormina in September 2005, The International Task Force for Low Vision “landed” in Tunis on 2nd and 3rd June 2006. It is an international initiative that has been established to counter the phenomenon of visual impairment and to prevent blindness, supported by several Mediterranean Countries: not only Italy and Tunisia (the sponsor nations), but also France, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and pre-war Libya.

The Task Force for Low Vision was conceived by the President of IAPB Italy Giuseppe Castronovo, together with professors Ahmed Trabelsi and Bruno Lumbroso, during the symposium on Visual Rehabilitation, which was held in Rome in March 2005. Analysing eye health in various Mediterranean Countries, the promoters realized that direct intervention was required, as – at least in some areas – the problem of reduced vision was not being considered with sufficient attention by local ophthalmologists and health authorities.

The Task Force against low vision consists of a working group of friends and colleagues who share the same goals. For this reason it was decided to “build bridges” in the Mediterranean area, involving ophthalmologists and orthoptists operating in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

The main objectives of the Task Force are the following:

1) to evaluate the problem of low vision in the countries concerned;
2) to deepen the interest of ophthalmologists in these regions towards visual rehabilitation and to take care of visually impaired people, who no longer have any possibility of visual recovery, but who need help and support in the daily performance of their tasks;
task_force_low_vision.jpg 3) to convince health authorities of the importance of visual rehabilitation;
4) to organise congresses, symposia and conferences of ophthalmologists, orthoptists and opticians on low vision and vision rehabilitation;
5) to organise training courses on the practical aspects of visual rehabilitation, reserved for a restricted number of people

The Task Force has as its main objective the training of people for the dissemination of their knowledge of the different eye health care disciplines and the training of people, who in turn, will be capable of training other personnel. This is done with the aim of helping people who are not adequately assisted, providing them with care, hope and useful solutions. The Board of the Task Force for Low Vision also met in Algiers (Prof, Ailem) in December 2005, in Marrakech (Prof. Zaghloul and Dr. Rais) in January 2006 and then in Palermo.

The Task Force has as honorary President the Lawyer G. Castronovo (Italy); as Chairman Prof. B. Lumbroso (Italy); as Co-chairman Dr. A Trabelsi (Tunisia); as Secretary Prof. L. Cerulli (Italy); On the Scientific Committee Prof. C. Corbé (France), Prof, A Reibaldi (Italy) and Prof. A. Ouertani (Tunisia); On the Executive Committee Prof. A. Ailem (Algeria), Prof. S. Ayed, Dr. S. Fitouri (Libya), Dr. Timsiline (Algeria), Prof. Aragona (Italy), Prof. A. Pece (Italy), Prof. M.T. Nouri (Algeria), Prof. Zaghloul (Morocco), Prof. R. Crouzet Barbati (Italy), Dr. S. Sidicheickh (Mauritania), Dr. Hache (France); On the Secretarial Committee: Dr. H. Farah (Tunisia), Dr. M. Vadalà (Italy) and Dr. L. Rais (Morocco); as External Advisors: Dr. Abdulaziz Al Rajhi (Saudi Arabia), Dr. Etya’lé (OMS).