DODOMA: Sightsavers Tanzania has urged that the eye health services should be accessible to everyone by increasing their availability in communities in rural and remote areas.
The call was made over the weekend by the Sightsavers Country Director, Mr Godwin Kabalika, during the climax of the World Sight Day, saying the eye health services should be available to everyone.
“The eye health must be considered as a vital part of the healthcare and development. Eye health services are still a luxury in urban areas and are not accessible for all,” he said.
“Everyone, including communities living in remote and rural areas, women and girls, people with disabilities, should have access to the services. Yet the availability of eye health services and products like glasses varies.”
Globally, 1.1 billion people have an untreated or preventable visual impairment and in Africa there is an estimated 26.3 million people who have vision impairment.
“A new lancet Global Health report has found that the sight loss cost the global economy 411 billion US dollar in the year 2020 due to loss of employments.
The figure far outweighs the estimated cost gap of addressing the unmet need of vision impairment estimated at about 25 billion US dollars.
Governments are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of United Nations (UN) goals which aim to reduce global poverty and inequality and protect the planet.
They include a target to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which wants ensuring that everyone has access to health services.
In 2021, global leaders unanimously adopted the UN ‘Vision for Everyone’ resolution, which explicitly links eye health to all the SDGs.
To achieve the goals and resolution, inclusive eye health services are essential and should be considered as a vital part of healthcare and development.
Mr Kabalika noted that his organisation was working with the government and other partners to improve eye health services.
“More needs to be done to ensure eye health is represented in health planning, resourcing and funding. Include people with disabilities, women and other marginalised groups, community outreach and a geographically spread workforce, will help reduce disparity of access.”
The Sightsavers recently introduced its project dubbed ‘Inclusive Eye Health project (Macho Yangu) in Dodoma.
Currently Tanzania has 84 Ophthalmologists while the demand stands at 271 and Assistant Medical Officer in Ophthalmologist (AMOOs) are 86 against the demand of 564.
He recommended on-the-job training to facilitate a trickle down of learned skills among health workers and for other development partners to continue supporting the government to mitigate the shortage of eye health staff at all levels of healthcare delivery.