Partnership to transform eye health in Malawi

Malawi, Africa, 9 March 2015: The Brien Holden Vision Institute, a global non-profit aimed at eliminating avoidable blindness, and Essilor, the world’s leading ophthalmic optics company, are joining forces with the Malawi Ministry of Health to improve access to affordable eye care in Malawi.

Inaugurated at the launch of its first Vision Center in Lilongwe, A Sustainable Vision Care Model Project aims to transform the state of eye health in Malawi by strengthening the delivery of eye care services across the country. The Brien Holden Vision Institute and Essilor are supporting this comprehensive project to develop existing government eye health infrastructure and provide accessible, affordable and quality eye care to rural Malawians by establishing over 50 vision centres within public hospitals by 2019.

“Ninety percent of the Malawian population live in rural areas, with 55% estimated to be living below the poverty line,” said Professor Kovin Naidoo, the Deputy CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. “This means that private eye care is out of reach for the majority of the population.” A significant proportion of people in Malawi are affected by visually disabling refractive errors, yet there are only 13 optometrists available in the public sector to serve a population of nearly 17 million people, restricting eye care service to surgical and emergency management of eye diseases. “Early detection and the appropriate visual correction would increase the quality of life for millions of Malawians, but refractive services are not accessible in most rural areas due to a lack of systems, eye care personnel and affordable spectacles,” said the Professor.

“Private and public partnerships are vital if we are to change the game. Without partners, such as that with Essilor, sustainable eye care in Malawi would be but a dream. We hope that the model we have developed together will be replicated in other countries with similar eye health barriers.”

“This is the first time that a public-private-partnership has been created at a national level on the African continent to create a sustainable vision care model, aimed in serving millions of people who suffer from uncorrected poor vision,” said Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Chief Corporate Mission Officer, Essilor International. The Vision Centres will be integrated into existing government health facilities to ensure their sustainability and will be directly managed by the Malawi Ministry of Health who will employ the required optometrists and optometry technicians.

In addition to supporting the establishment of Vision Centres by providing the start-up equipment required for comprehensive refractive error services, the project will contribute to the development of qualified and skilled personnel to deliver high-quality eye care Community outreach programs that will also focus on providing health promotion activities and materials to schools, communities, clinics, hospitals and other high volume areas to educate the public on the importance of eye health and regular eye examinations.

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