2652 People Receive Free Eye Care

More than 2600 patients received free eye care through EyeCamp2005, which was conducted in Dodoma region in December 2005. EyeCamp2005 was an activity of ONA Network Inc. conducted, in association with the Dodoma Regional Hospital.

As for most regions in Tanzania, Dodoma has a significant need for eye care services. Because of limited government funds to ease this situation, the involvement of non-governmental organizations like Ona Network Inc. is vital.

Seven villages: Fufu, Mtitaa, Songambele, Veyula, Kigwe, Msingisa and Chinangali were visited on a one-day basis. During the visits, villagers were appropriately provided with free eye health examinations, and dispensed free eye drops and free spectacles, where required and as appropriate. A significant number of patients were referred to either Mvumi or Dodoma Regional Hospital for further management, most of which being cataract patients requiring surgery. In all villages, health posts (dispensaries) or schools were used as campsites. Neighbouring villages were also invited to receive the benefits of the camps.

The EyeCamp2005 team was comprised of a total of 13 optometric and non-optometric volunteers from Tanzania and Australia. The team was accompanied by, and worked hand in hand with the Dodoma regional hospital optometrist, Mr James Mtae and also Mr. Stanley Yohana an ophthalmic nurse also based at the Dodoma regional hospital.

The decision to conduct an eye camp in Dodoma was reached based on the high incidence of eye diseases in Dodoma, and the large number of the population living below the poverty line.

In preparation for the eye camp, several villages were identified in consultation with appropriate government eye care personnel, including the Dodoma regional eye care coordinator Dr. Maarifa. Initial visits to villages were made by the Mr. Mtae, the optometrist based at the Dodoma Regional Hospital, to ascertain the need, the economic position and the accessibility of the proposed villages. In addition to this, the support, cooperation and involvement of the village leadership both administrative and at village dispensaries was consolidated.

In addition to the free camps held in the villages above, low cost camps were conducted in three suburban areas of Dodoma town, namely: Miyuji and Kiwanja cha Ndege and Kibaigwa. Full eye care services were provided at these areas at a cost lower than that of any provider in the region. This was useful in providing the low-income urban population with affordable eye care. In these clinics, emphasis was placed on providing quality spectacles at an affordable price, but those genuinely unable to pay were granted free spectacles.

The camps showed the major causes of poor vision and/or blindness to be cataract, uncorrected refractive errors and cornea scars, usually from trachoma and Vitamin A deficiency. Based on this assessment, Ona Network has committed to expanding its services to provide cataract surgery to financially constrained people unable to afford the service on their own. It is expected that the project will be a joint effort of several local and foreign organizations and institutions.