7 July 2014

Tanzania: Ministry Moves to Improve Eye Care Services

THE Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has developed the second National Eye Care Strategic Plan under which eye care services are set for significant improvement countrywide.

Health Minister, Dr Seif Rashid, launching a state-of-the-art Eye Unit at Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital in Dar es Salaam, said the envisaged improvement under the strategic plan to be undertaken from 2011 to 2016 would contribute towards the realisation of the Global Vision 2020, the right to sight initiative.

"In this endeavour, we look forward to working with all stakeholders. My ministry and I therefore appreciate this initiative by Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital," said Dr Rashid.

Opening of the eye centre, which is expected to be the best in the country, has been made possible following contributions given by Dr Kanubhai K.C Babla of Mombasa, Kenya.

"We are grateful to him because the donation has contributed to national efforts to prevent blindness. It is my sincere hope that the service provision at this newly established eye unit will be affordable and accessible to the Tanzania community at large," the minister said.

According to him, establishment of the unit would further enhance the capacity to manage simple and complicated eye diseases. He pointed out that the facility would also assist the ministry towards the attainment of its second national eye care strategic plan.

"From my ministry's point of view, this is an excellent example of private-public partnership being implemented on the ground by providing benefits to the patient," Dr Rashid said. According to the health statistics, eye conditions were among top ten diseases in Tanzania.

Since a population-based blindness survey was yet to be conducted, the actual national level of blindness prevalence was not known.

However, the minister said, WHO estimated the prevalence of blindness in developing countries to range from 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent.

He said such estimates might not reflect the true picture as a survey conducted in a trachoma endemic district in Tanzania in the year 2008 revealed a prevalence of 3.5 per cent.

Dr Rashid further said that, according to WHO, the leading causes of blindness in the country were cataract (50 per cent), corneal blindness (20 per cent) and glaucoma 10 (per cent).

He said other causes, such as uncorrected refractive errors, retinal and optic nerve diseases, diabetes retinopathy, maculopathies genetic anomalies and albinism, accounted for the remaining 20 per cent.

"With an increase in the prevalence of diabetes, diabetes-related eye diseases are also on the increase," the minister pointed out.

In his keynote address, chairman of Shree Hindu Mandal, Dar es Salaam, Mr Ramesh Patel, thanked Dr Babla of Mombasa for his support which had made their dream of having a comprehensive eye centre a reality.

"Without his support, we would not be here today (yesterday) inaugurating this unit," he said, assuring the minister that hospital services would continue to expand.

He said they were looking forward to undertaking a new initiative including six ultra-modern critical care units and a physiotherapy unit.

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