An estimated 180 million people worldwide are visually disabled. Between 40 and 45 million of these are completely blind. The loss of sight causes enormous human suffering for the affected individuals and their families. It represents a public health, social, and economic problem for developing countries, where 90 percent of the worlds blind people live.The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 80% of global blindness is avoidable blindness that results from conditions that could have been prevented or controlled. In the majority of these cases, they believe that sight can be restored through appropriate treatment.
In eastern Africa, for example, 3.7 million people suffer from blindness. As stated above, over 80 percent are blind due to preventable or curable causes. Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the region, accounting for 60% of cases; trachoma accounts for 15 to 20 percent. Proven cost-effective strategies exist to combat blindness from both of these conditions. In spite of this, cataracts and trachoma continue to cause blindness to thousands each year because of a lack of trained personnel, financial resources, and established systems of distribution. Women are especially at risk, bearing two-thirds of all blindness. The consequences of this blindness put an enormous burden on individuals, families, institutions, and government.
Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO)
Project Impact provides program development, administrative, and fundraising support to the Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO). The mission of KCCO is to become a leading international center dedicated to the prevention of blindness in support of the World Health Organization's Vision 2020 and GET 2020 goals. KCCO will accomplish this mission through research, intervention, and training programs which adhere to the highest standards of medical care. KCCO will utilize community-driven approaches and local personnel to build the capacity of Tanzania and Eastern Africa to manage blindness.
KCCO will play a significant role in the elimination of avoidable and preventable blindness in eastern Africa by bringing fresh resources and leadership and by helping to improve the co-ordination of joint initiatives and programs with existing programs and institutions. Locating the KCCO offices at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania, allows the Center to build upon an existing institution with a history of community-based prevention of blindness service. The service includes outreach activities, community-based rehabilitation, and some resource center development. KCMC is also a recognized ophthalmology training institution and a member of the proposed East Africa College of Ophthalmology. The University is firmly committed to the development of KCCO, providing the necessary space and administrative support for its operation.
The KCCO initiative is directed by Drs. Paul Courtright and Susan Lewallen. Both have excellent credentials as medical practitioners and teachers and are highly experienced in the operational challenges of medical service delivery in the developing world.
KCCO will focus on trachoma in its first years of existence. During this time, KCCO will position itself as a model in trachoma eradication: developing creative partnerships and fostering community participation to maximize coverage and effectiveness; training all levels of health personnel in preventive ophthalmology; researching outcomes and gender issues related to trichiasis surgery; and developing standardized baseline assessments for use in other trachoma endemic regions.
As the KCCO develops, its leadership will expand beyond the area of trachoma to include cataract, onchocerciasis, vitamin A deficiency and other leading causes of preventable and treatable eye conditions which affect Eastern Africa.
'The KCCO will always be committed to hiring and training local Tanzanian and African staff to lead key program initiatives. Core staff will have skills in the areas of administration/financial management, data management, evaluation, program development, and training. The position of Director will be filled by an African eye care professional.
The KCCO will work to foster relationships with NGOs, ministries of health, African governments and other partners to achieve institutional and project goals. Project Impact/KCCO has already formed partnerships with eye care NGOs, namely International Eye Foundation, Seva Foundation, Helen Keller Worldwide, Chistoffel Blindenmission. These partners will work in a variety of capacities with KCCO to expand its programs geographically and to share program approaches and research finding. KCCO has also formed an important partnership with The International Society for Geographical and Epidemiological Ophthalmology (ISGEO), which will be housed within KCCO. KCCO also enjoys a strong relationship with the World Health
Organization and will work towards selection as a WHO Collaborating Center.
KCCO will operate under the authority of a volunteer Board of Directors with program and resources provided by its expert Advisory Board. Its staff will be overseen and managed by its directors, Drs. Courtright and Lewallen, with program development, administrative, and financial management support to be provided by KCMC Hospital, Tumaini University, and Project Impact.
For other ongoing eye care projects in which Project Impact is participating, please see Aravind Eye Hospital, Aurolab, and Al Noor Foundation, all listed in the Collaborating Partners section.
Link to Collaborating Partners section please click here