Kenya is a country rich in wildlife, culture, history, beauty and friendly, welcoming people. It’s a place of varied and diverse cultures, where modern meets traditional and merges into something truly unique, and truly Kenyan.
A brief introduction to Kenya
There are 47 counties within Kenya, each with its own culture and readily welcoming community. It’s possible to leave thriving and modern Nairobi, the capital city, and drive a few hours to villages still steeped in tradition. Here, Maasai warriors armed with spears herd their cattle, protecting them from marauding lions.
Today, Kenya has the potential to become one of Africa’s success stories because of its diversified economy, geographical position, growing population, and booming communications and private sector. To sustain the recovery and move onto a higher growth and development path, the Kenyan Government has formulated a new long-term development blueprint for the country: Kenya Vision 2030.
Although Kenya’s human development index (covering things like life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators) is the highest ranked in the region, its global ranking is very low. Factors such as these contribute to the high rate of avoidable blindness and are the reasons for The Foundation’s work in Kenya.
What are the eye health problems?
It’s estimated there are 328,000 blind people in Kenya, with another 750,000 visually impaired. Cataract is the largest cause of avoidable blindness in the country, making up 43% of all cases of blindness.
Trachoma ranks second, accounting for 19% of all cases, and is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness. Trachoma is an eye infection related to poverty and mostly affects people in areas that have limited access to water and sanitation. Trachoma is prevalent in 12 out of the 47 counties located in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas.
Over the years, Kenya has worked to improve the health of its people. However, the delivery of eye health services remains a challenge. The Fred Hollows Foundation is working with the Government of Kenya to support the delivery of equitable and sustained improvements across health services. Our focus is on the rural areas where 80% of the population live, and where access to health services is extremely limited due to finite resources and financial allocation for eye health.
Kenya needs to invest in strengthening the whole continuum of care, and focus on the awareness and use of health services. Community members at times choose to seek treatment from traditional healers, which can often do more harm than good, so education and training is key to our work in Kenya.
The Foundation’s programs in Kenya
Our aim is to ensure eye health is integrated into the national and county health systems through our ongoing working relationship with the Government of Kenya.
The Foundation uses a Health Systems Strengthening approach to ensure the delivery of comprehensive eye health for the Kenyan people. Key drivers in achieving this are: multi-stakeholder partnerships, close collaboration with government, advocating for policies that are inclusive and accessible, and demonstrating innovation in programming.
Strengthening the eye health workforce is another key focus of The Foundation. Kenya requires additional ophthalmologists and mid-level surgeons to clear the backlog of people needing surgery. We work with health training institutions to increase the training of eye health personnel. This will help address the acute shortage of skilled eye health workers, especially in rural areas where the need is greatest. The Foundation continues its advocacy efforts towards a plan that will inform national initiatives for increased public and private sector financing for eye health.
We’re making significant progress
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot in 2014 in some of our key strategic areas. The Foundation has demonstrated that quality eye care can be delivered by mid-level ophthalmic cadres and that the backlog of nearly 140,000 cases awaiting surgery can be eliminated.
Research, training and technology
- Treated over 1 million people with antibiotics for trachoma
- Performed over 46,000 eye operations and treatments
- Supported 27 procedures to treat diabetic retinopathy
- Distributed 2,966 pairs of glasses
Advocacy and partnerships
- Trained 15 surgeons, 439 clinic support staff and 4,061 community health workers
- Supported 3,268 people to continue their education or mentoring
- Upgraded two eye health facilities and donated $485,773 worth of equipment
- Held positive discussions with county governments to increase financial allocations to eye health services
- Piloted, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, software expected to enhance the monitoring of post-surgery outcomes
- Led a review of the national primary eye care guidelines to support community engagement
- Transformed trachoma programming through an integrated and cost-effective expanded outreach model. This model is now being replicated across Kenya