In 2006 a Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey was conducted in Rwanda to assess the baseline prevalence for blindness and vision loss in a developing region or country. A RAAB was conducted in Rwanda and a report was produced that formed the basis for the Western Province Blindness Prevention Program.
The research was undertaken as a partnership between the Ministry of Health in Rwanda and Fred Hollows Eastern Africa and led by The Foundation’s Regional Medical Advisor, Dr Ciku Mathenge.
A total of 2,158 individuals aged 50 years and over were examined. The findings indicate a prevalence of blindness in people aged 50 years and over of 1.6% and an all age prevalence estimated at 0.3%, which is much lower than the World Health Organization estimates (1.0%).
The prevalence of blindness and impaired vision increased with age, ranging from 0.5% in those aged 50-54 years to 8.9% in those aged 80 years and above. Avoidable causes of blindness include cataract, refractive error and corneal scarring, accounting for 82.1% of all cases of bilateral blindness.
Cataract accounted for 66.7% of all causes of bilateral blindness. Posterior segment disease (including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration) is the second cause (18.0%) and corneal scarring is the third cause.
Other key findings were that the outcome after cataract surgery was relatively poor with the cause being equally likely to be due to uncorrected refractive error, surgery-related complications or a concurrent cause of blindness.
The findings also indicated that the most common barrier to overcoming avoidable blindness is that patients are unaware of what was causing the blindness and that it could be treated. More than half of people examined complained of night blindness and lack of access to presbyopic glasses was also a major complaint.