Sightsavers Health Project Provides Hope For Millions To Avoid A National Eye Health Crisis

A health project in the Morogoro and Singida regions has shown that there is hope of avoiding a national eye health crisis in Tanzania. In 2022, it was estimated that 8.2 million people in the country had vision loss1 and without concerted effort these numbers could increase.

‘Boresha Macho’, a project from international development organisation Sightsavers, aimed to restore and protect vision by providing equitable access to eye care. Funded by the UK government through UK Aid Match and developed in partnership with the Tanzania Ministry of Health, the initiative helped over 178,000 people access basic eye health services. It particularly focused on people with disabilities and women, who traditionally face barriers to accessing health care but shouldn’t be left behind.

The project has transformed the lives of people such as Holo from Singida region who helps farm and care for her grandchildren. Loss of sight from cataracts made these tasks difficult and Holo felt unstable on her feet.

Cataract surgery has given her a “new beginning”. She feels joyful, energetic, and can work and walk around again. Holo has now encouraged her brother to seek treatment for his vision impairment.

Edwin Maleko, Programme Manager at Sightsavers, said: “Access to eye health services is a fundamental human right and good eye health equals opportunity, allowing children to learn and adults to earn. Prioritising eye health plays an important part in creating a ripple effect across education, wellbeing, economics, and health outcomes. Which ultimately helps reduce poverty and allows individuals, communities, and the nation, to thrive.”

Access to eye care was improved through initiatives including:

  • Over 17,000 cataract surgeries and provision of more than 7,000 glasses.
  • Community-based screenings
  • Professional training for eye health workers
  • Health facility accessibility audits and upgrades
  • Disability and gender inclusion training for health professionals
  • Awareness raising with organisations for women and people with disabilities.

Edwin continues: “We encourage the government and other stakeholders to continue scaling up eye health services and professional training. In addition, to integrate eye care into school systems to tackle child eye health, and work closely with organisations for women and people with disabilities to ensure services remain inclusive.”

The Boresha Macho project was possible thanks to support from the UK public and match funding from the UK government of Sightsavers ‘End is in Sight’ fundraising campaign. It was active from October 2019-December 2022 and formed strong foundations that governments and partners are now building on. Health budgets and resourcing have already been increased and Sightsavers is currently supporting a review of professional training curriculums.

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