Irish Aid Funds DIT Mozambique Eyecare Project

  • Minister Peter Power launches initiative to address avoidable blindness in Lusophone Africa
  • Half a million Mozambicans to benefit from eye examinations

June 22 2009

Pictured at the launch of the Mozambique EyeCare Project are
Minister Peter Power T.D., Katie Toppin, DIT Optometry student
and Professor Jogre Ferraó, Universidade Lurio, Nampula. 

Mr Peter Power T.D., Minister of State with Responsibility for Overseas Development, launched the ‘Mozambique Eyecare Project’ last week in the DIT National Optometry Centre. Funded by Irish Aid the project aims to reduce the number of people suffering from avoidable blindness in Mozambique.  Run by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Optometry Department, the University of Ulster, International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) and Universidade Lūrio Mozambique the project will establish the first optometry course in Mozambique at UniLūrio.  The result of this initiative will be the training of Mozambique’s first professional optometrists and optometry technicians who will provide a sustainable and comprehensive eye-care system as an integral part of the national health system. Over the five years of the project, almost half a million people will benefit from comprehensive eye examinations and the provision of glasses which until now are simply not available to them. 

Dr. James Loughman, DIT Optometry Department,
Professor Brian Norton, President, DIT,
Minister Peter Power T.D.,
Professor Kovin Naidoo
and Professor Jorge Ferrão

Minister Power said: “This project is an excellent example of the difference Irish Aid-supported collaboration between Irish higher education institutions and their African partners is making to the lives of people in developing countries. Access to eye care treatment is something we take for granted.  In Mozambique and other countries of the developing world the situation is very different.  The collaboration of DIT, the University of Ulster and other key partners is making simple, cost effective eye services available to thousands in Mozambique; making a huge difference to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

The Mozambique Eye-Care Project is the result of a proposal led by Professor Kovin Naidoo (ICEE), Prof. Jorge Ferrão (UniLūrio), Dr. James Loughman (DIT) and Prof Roger Anderson (University of Ulster).  In response to the proposal, Irish Aid (Ireland’s official aid programme) has awarded funding of €1.5 million to support the objective of providing sustainable solutions to community health and poverty, using Irish optometry expertise in Mozambique.

Currently, according to Dr. Loughman, Mozambique has only 13 ophthalmologists for a population of 21 million, and no optometrists or dispensing opticians. “This means that very few people undergo eye examinations and when they do there is often no way to make up (glaze) their glasses.

“This project is based in the Nampula province in Northern Mozambique which has a population of 4.1 million and only one ophthalmologist.  Typically, the ophthalmologist examines 150 patients a day, working in very difficult conditions in the Central Hospital, Nampula.  To put this in context, in Ireland, with a similar population, there are 860 registered optometrists and over 200 registered ophthalmologists. On average an optometrist in Ireland will see some 14 patients per day.”

The Mozambique Eyecare Project is a response to “Vision 2020: the Right to Sight” - a WHO global initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020 - and is in line with the thematic priorities of Irish Aid.  It is estimated that there are over 300 million visually impaired people worldwide, and 80% of these cases could be easily avoided or treated. 

Work has already begun on the ‘Mozambique Eyecare Project’ with15 students enrolled on the first optometry course which started in February of this year.

Over the course of the five year programme, a number of DIT and University of Ulster Lecturers will participate in the delivery of the programme, and it is envisaged that a number of eyecare professionals in Ireland will also play a part in the successful implementation of the project.  Responding to questions about whether members of the public can get involved, Dr. Loughman says “The answer is a definite yes!  Anyone can help by raising funds, raising the profile of the project in Ireland and beyond, by travelling to Mozambique to assist in the training of optometrists and in many other ways.  Of course, we would also appreciate donations of good quality equipment to be used in the training of Optometrists in Mozambique.”

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