EYE CARE: Vision care in Tanzania needs more awareness

Monday October 21 2019

A Dar es Salaam resident gets her eyes checked

A Dar es Salaam resident gets her eyes checked during Mwananchi’s Afya camp. PHOTO | FILE 

By Salome Gregory

Tanzania joined the world in the commemorating the World Sight Day (WSD) last week themed ‘vision first’. The day is set to focus on global attention on preventing blindness and vision impairment.

In Tanzania, the day brought together different health stakeholders at the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Dr Cyprian Ntomoka, eye specialist and head of CCBRT eye services says the World Sight Day gives a platform for stakeholders to remind the government, non-government organisations and individuals to participate fully on the efforts to stop vision impairment by making eye services affordable and closer to the people.

Tanzania is one among the countries that joined the Vision 2020 - The Right to Sight, a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

In Tanzania a lot has to be done to support the availability of eye services as country’s man power is highly affected if serious measures will not be taken, says Dr Ntomoka.

Adding to that he says more than 75 per cent of vision impairment can be stopped only if people were able to get treated before the problem becomes irreversible.

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Data from the Tanzania Ophthalmology Society shows that about 1.3 billion people globally are estimated to have vision impairment.

The report further shows that, vision impairment was at 4.58 per cent in 1990. The problem decreased up to 3.37 per cent in 2015.

On the current status of the country, Dr Ntomoka says in Tanzania people with vision impairment reach 1.8 million; that is 3.37 per cent of Tanzanians.

He adds, every age group needs to go for regular eye check-ups but most importantly the vulnerable groups like children, elderly and those with diabetes need to have a regular eye check-up to avoid irreversible problems at a later stage.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment. The WHO resolutions on universal eye health are a global action plan, prevention of avoidable and visual impairment, elimination of avoidable blindness as well as global elimination of blinding trachoma.

Some of the eye problems includes bulging eyes, cataracts, colour blindness, crossed eyes, diabetic macular and cataracts in babies.

Eye care tips

Medlineplus.gov suggests these are things you can do to help keep your eyes healthy and make sure you are seeing your best:

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your diet should include plenty or fruits and vegetables, especially deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of developing diabetes. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.

• Know your other risk factors. As you get older, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. It is important to know you risk factors because you may be able to lower your risk by changing some behaviors.

• Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time using a computer, you can forget to blink your eyes and your eyes can get tired. To reduce eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

More than a billion people cannot see well, because they don’t have access to glass

Vision first

More than a billion people cannot see well, because they don’t have access to glasses. Over 3 out of 4 of the world’s vision impaired are avoidably so what can be done to arrest this unconscionable fact? Arm yourself with your country’s prevalence data and eye health system information and your country’s plans to tackle blindness.

sgregory@tz.nationmedia.com

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