Tanzania, located in East Africa, has seen sustained economic growth and progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce extreme poverty. However, much work remains to be done, particularly around eye care. There is less than one ophthalmologist per 1 million people living in Tanzania. As with many countries in the Africa region, Tanzanians are faced with avoidable blindness caused by cataract, trachoma, glaucoma, corneal scarring, childhood blindness, and refractive error. The main cause of bilateral blindness is cataract.
Seva works with the Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) to increase people’s access to eye care across Tanzania. Staffed almost entirely by native Tanzanians, KCCO’s mission is to strengthen African health systems and partnerships to achieve the goals of VISION 2020. With Seva’s support, KCCO is working to achieve this by partnering with local governmental hospitals to train community health workers, conduct outreach trips to rural communities without regular access to eye care, provide clinical training for ophthalmologists and cataract surgeons and providing funds for medical treatments for those who cannot afford them.
KCCO currently partners with hospitals in over 10 African countries. However, in the beginning of 2015, KCCO staff made the decision to place extra emphasis on programs in their home country of Tanzania. Seva Foundation supports this process by providing resources to KCCO to work with the government eye units in three regions of Tanzania: Iringa Region, Mara Region and Singida Region. Together, these three programs will provide eye care services to a catchment area of almost ten million people who would otherwise have little to no options for eye care services.
In addition to direct program support, Seva also partners with KCCO to provide several workshops for Tanzanian and other African eye health specialists on a variety of topics including organization and financial management, clinical low vision, epidemiology and evidence, child eye health vision counselor training and building research capacity in Africa.