Loss of eye sight has a significant impact on the poor, often preventing at least one person from earning an income and requiring another family member’s full-time assistance. Of the world’s visually impaired, 87 percent live in developing countries and 18 percent of those who are blind live in Africa.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs about 20 percent of the time and causes damage to the retina’s blood vessels. It is the fifth most common cause of visual impairment worldwide – but can be treated if diagnosed early.
UHEAL’s mission is to work against the preventable loss of sight. At the UHEAL eye centre in Nairobi, opthamologists can lease space to use comprehensive, high-quality equipment to treat diabetic retinopathy.
UHEAL has also established a set of outreach units that screen for and treat diabetic retinopathy. These units travel across Kenya’s Western, Central, Coast and Rift Valley provinces – all of which have high percentages of diabetes among their populations – offering eye examinations, laser treatment and follow-up care.
The UHEAL eye centre has provided more than 16,000 patients with eye-care services and helped to build provider infrastructure in the region. UHEAL’s first outreach camp took place in March 2010. Since then, UHEAL has conducted four camps every month.
UHEAL is also raising awareness about diabetic retinopathy by training local health workers and conducting sessions at hospitals and with diabetic support groups.