Vision Myanmar Programme
In Myanmar, only 200 eye surgeons or ophthalmologists service a population of over 50 million, with the majority practising in the two largest cities. Outside Yangon and Mandalay, there is one ophthalmologist for every half a million people.
In 2005, the Vision Myanmar Program undertook a population-based blindness survey of over 2000 people in central Myanmar. This is the most comprehensive ophthalmic epidemiological study to be conducted in the country and identified a blindness prevalence of 8%, the highest published rate in the world. The majority of the blind had cataracts, a readily treatable cause of visual impairment.
A Nation-wide Eye Health Program
In 2008, the Vision Myanmar Program commenced a four-year nationwide project to strengthen the capacity of the Myanmar ophthalmologists and health workers to deliver effective, high quality and sustainable eye health care. The project, which is primarily funded by AusAID, has several facets but the main focus is training and provision of equipment to the three ophthalmology teaching hospitals and 33 public eye centres throughout the country:
Program consultants hold a two-week clinic-based course for all trainee ophthalmologists in Myanmar at Yangon Eye Hospital every year. Annual surgical workshops are also held at Yangon and Mandalay Eye Hospitals where upskilling in subspecialty topics is achieved through interactive clinical sessions and hands-on surgery.
The Program sponsors Myanmar ophthalmologists to come to the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology for 12-month subspecialty fellowships. By 2009, a total of six fellows will have been trained.
Much needed surgical instruments, slit lamp microscopes, operating microscopes and other vital equipment are being supplied to both the teaching hospitals and regional centres.
Regional Eye Centre Upgrade
Following the equipment and facility upgrade, the Program will re-train selected regional ophthalmologists who currently cannot practice cataract surgery due to loss of skills.
Regional ophthalmic nurses will also be trained in surgical sterility and the care and handling of micro-surgical instruments.
Courses in ophthalmic health promotion will concurrently be provided, with the aim of overcoming some of the hurdles to cataract surgery in rural areas and raising awareness amongst the population of other blinding eye diseases.
Public Health Promotion
The Program and Yangon Eye Hospital are collaborating on a number of public health projects aimed at preventing eye diseases and reducing the prevalence of blindness in Myanmar:
Yangon Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Campaign
Diabetes is an increasing problem in Myanmar, with an estimated three million people affected. In a survey conducted in 2005, only 46% of diabetic patients had ever visited an ophthalmologist. A campaign that aims to increase the awareness of diabetic eye disease amongst general practitioners and patients has recently been implemented.
Trachoma is still a significant problem in the Dry Zone of Central Myanmar and accounts for 5% of all blindness. The Program is currently working with potential donors to secure 50,000 doses of azithromycin, the antibiotic required to treat these remaining cases.
A comprehensive survey of all seven schools for blind children in Myanmar was conducted in 2007. The major cause of childhood blindness was found to be vitamin A deficiency due to malnutrition. A campaign to provide vitamin A supplementation for young children is currently being planned
If you wish to make a donation to help fight blindness in Myanmar, you can make a credit card donation to the fund by calling 8222 5279, staff will take your card details and mail you a receipt.
Alternatively you can send a cheque to us at the following address:
Vision Myanmar Fund
C/o Ophthalmology Network
Level 8 East Wing
Royal Adelaide Hospital
ADELAIDE SA 5005
For information about our fund-raising book “Visions of Myanmar” please visit www.visionsofmyanmar.com.au.