PERSPECTIVES

“Training ophthalmologists is essential to fight blindness in developing countries”

Since 2014, Oxurion has been supporting the Belgian branch of the European NGO Light for the World. It fights eye disease in Rwanda, Tanzania and Congo, providing organizational, technical and financial support to medical eye centers.

“Our key ambition is to put an end to avoidable blindness worldwide,” says Isabelle Verhaegen, Director of Light for the World. “Creating awareness of eye diseases really is key for developing countries, such as in Africa. For example, most people with cataracts don’t know their vision problems can be easily treated. For diabetic retinopathy it’s even worse: people often don’t even know they have diabetes, let alone that their disease can cause vision threatening disorders if left untreated.”

Light for the World supports local partner organizations in creating disease awareness among the population in Rwanda, Tanzania and Congo. “We also help local partners build and equip medical eye care centers, and with educating local doctors. We give scholarships to students wanting to study ophthalmology and send European specialists to train local doctors as eye specialists.” Oxurion has supported Light for the World since 2014. “With their funding we supported, for instance, the eye department of a hospital in Tanzania and gave a scholarship to a doctor to be trained as an ophthalmologist,” says Ms. Verhaegen.

One problem developing countries face is insufficient equipment and knowledge to treat certain eye diseases. “For diabetic retinopathy that is definitely the case. There is often no access to the current standard of care. Moreover, patients must keep returning for injections, another big obstacle for most of them. Finding treatments that are easier and less intrusive for patients would be a major benefit for Third World countries.”

“To fight blindness globally all stakeholders must work together: nonprofit organizations like ourselves, big pharma industries, the medical and science community, and innovative R&D companies like Oxurion,” concludes Isabelle Verhaegen.

Thomas
Isabelle Verhaegen

Director of Light for the World