by Audrey Fernandez.
The busy clinic at Biombo in Guinea Bissau, West Africa, acts as a centre for primary health care work in the surrounding areas. A group of eye specialists from Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) visited Biombo in January this year. We were greatly encouraged by their work and were amazed by the number of people in need. Dr Adrian Hopkins and his team made us aware of how simple hygiene, nutrition and early treatment of eye conditions can prevent blindness which may be caused by Vitamin A deficiency, trachoma, glaucoma and onchocerciasis.
This brief visit was enough to encourage us into action! We have now started doing eye care at the clinic. Dr Hopkins trained two of our workers to do the ‘entropion’ operation to correct the problem resulting from trachoma, when in-growing eye lashes scratch the cornea, leading to blindness (see page 3). Other members of our team were taught how to use the eye-charts for sight assessment and to promote good hygiene.
Albertina, who will lead this programme, was given extra teaching on diagnosis and treatment of various problems. To gain further experience, she works with a Guinean ophthalmologist for two weeks every three months.
Christoffel-Blindenmission are hoping to send a nurse out for a two year period to work alongside Albertina. This will help her to set up a Community Eye Programme, while carrying on with entropion operations and treatments in the clinic. Complicated cases will be sent to the city hospital.
To become really effective, an eye programme needs to become a separate programme, with its own team and supplies. Treating simple infections in a general clinic is a start, but will not meet the needs of many people who need more specialised help.
Anyone starting up such a programme will need to decide what their priorities are. Do they have enough staff, medicines and equipment to start up a full eye programme - or should they concentrate on health education and treatment for simple eye infections?
We have found it very helpful having CBM’s support in training us and providing us with equipment, drugs and advice. Their address, if anyone is interested is: Christoffel-Blindenmission Nibelungenstrasse 124 D-6140 Bensheim 4 Germany.