Francophone West Africa has received significantly less funding and attention from international organizations for aid and development in the past 20 years. As a result, it has experienced very low levels of social development. Seva Canada hopes to change that, at least in terms of eye care.
Seva Canada is funding Community Eye Centres (CECs) in Congo-Brazzaville and Benin, two countries that experience high levels of poverty and blindness. Modeled on Vision Centres in India and Primary Eye Care Centres in Nepal, CECs provide year-round, high quality, affordable care and have been known to fuel a revolutionary expansion in eye care.
CECs are stand-alone, facilities that serve 50-150,000 people. Staffed by well-trained ophthalmic technicians with access to sophisticated ophthalmic equipment, CECs provide a full range of services: glasses for refractive error, drugs for minor conditions, and referrals for complex and surgical cases to the ophthalmologist directing the CEC. In addition, CECs can become self-financing through affordable patient fees.
Like many Francophone Central and West African countries, Congo-Brazzaville has very few ophthalmologists who provide comprehensive eye care services and surgery. Those who do practice are mostly based in the capital city, Brazzaville, and practice in the private health care industry. There are no trained eye care professionals of any kind working in rural areas.
Currently, Seva Canada is funding the development of a CEC in Pointe-Noire, the country’s second largest city. Led by a Congolese ophthalmologist, Dr. Freddy Geraud Ngabou, this facility will be operational by late 2015. Dr. Ngabou is also working to strengthen management and leadership capacity so the team can replicate CECs throughout the country.
Meanwhile, in Benin, Seva Canada is funding a CEC with Dr. Amadou Alfa Bio. The CEC will be located in Parakou in northern Benin, and will become the first eye care facility in the entire region.