The Herald (Harare)

12 April 2014

Zimbabwe: 1,3 Million Zimbabweans Blind, Says Expert

Nearly 1,3 million Zimbabweans are blind and the majority will end up developing common vision-loss due to cataract related ailments, a University of Zimbabwe ophthalmologist said.UZ ophthalmology (vision and eye science) Prof Rangarirai Masanganise said this at a ceremony to commission optometry equipment worth US$120 000 which was donated by Cimas Medical Aid Society at Sekuru Kaguvi Hospital in Harare.

"I can tell you that 10 percent of the total Zimbabwean population is blind," he said. "Almost everyone in this country will also end up using reading glasses because of cataracts."

Prof Masanganise said over 10 000 per million children have refractive errors which is a condition whereby they cannot focus parallel rays of light on the retina.

He said the establishment of the Optometry Training Unit would help increase the number of optometrists in the country.

"There are only two ophthalmologists per million people and 10 optometrists for the same number of people," he said. "The establishment of the Unit is going to ease pressure on them."

He said there was no optometrist training in Zimbabwe and the first batch may be recruited beginning next year.

"The establishment of the Optometrist Training Unit is a move in the right direction because optometrists will now be trained in Zimbabwe," Prof Masanganise said. "This will not only help in easing pressure on the available optometrists but will also help in the provision of optometrist services in public hospitals."

He called on the Ministry of Health and Child Care to create positions for optometrists.

"We are requesting the Ministry of Health to create posts for the optometrists within the public health sector since there were none," he said. "The Ministry of Finance should also come on board to support the Training Unit as well as the running of the new programme."

According to the World Health Organisation about 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide while 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision. About 90 percent of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries.

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