The Afghan culture has been around for over two thousand years and is imbued with tradition and history. While it was once an important strategic crossroads along the Silk Road between Asia and the Middle East, decades of war has left the country in ruins.
A brief introduction to Afghanistan
Throughout the years, many civilisations and countries have fought over Afghanistan despite its rugged and challenging terrain. Today, it seems like nothing has changed. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the country has struggled to forge national unity and pockets of resurgent force mean the country is still riddled with conflict, violence and instability.
There are many ethnicities within Afghanistan, and each have their own customs, culture, dance and language. Although the nation is rich in tradition and history, Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries – due to the many years of war, lack of foreign investment, government corruption and the Taliban.
What are the eye health problems in Afghanistan?
After decades of violence, Afghanistan’s health system has largely been destroyed. Under half of the population has access to a safe water supply and around 37% of the population live in poverty.
Approximately 465,000 people in Afghanistan are blind, with high levels of cataract and trachoma. The vast majority of the population have limited access to eye care services, as most of the ophthalmic workforce is based in major cities. Eye care services are mainly provided by international NGOs rather than through the public health system. This lack of trained eye care personnel is a key barrier to people receiving the help they need and the current levels of staff are well below the minimum World Health Organisation standards.
The Foundation's eye health programs in Afghanistan
The Foundation began work in Afghanistan in 2006, and we work with local partners to incorporate eye care into primary health care systems and to develop secondary eye care centres at provincial and district levels.
We focus on training so that local medical workers can service the high demand for eye health services, making the eye care system sustainable.
We have two major projects we’re currently focusing on:
University Eye Hospital project
The Foundation is working with the Ministry of Higher Education, the Kabul Medical University and the Kabul University Eye Hospital which is the second largest public eye hospital in Afghanistan. We’re focusing on training an eye care workforce that will deliver quality and accessible eye care services to underserved and war ravaged communities in Afghanistan. The project also aims to strengthen eye health service delivery, teaching and training at the University Eye Hospital, to build the capacity of the public health system in and assist in the control and prevention of avoidable blindness.
School screening project
The Afghanistan School Eye Screening Project aims to reduce the prevalence of childhood blindness in Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan and to support the Government of Afghanistan in reducing avoidable blindness. We’re working to increase awareness and knowledge of childhood eye disease among students, teachers and the local communities.
Our future projects include working closely to help coordinate, plan and implement a national plan of action and to further support the eye health sector and the Ministry of Health.
We're making significant progress
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot last year in some of our key strategic areas.
- Screened 64,991 people
- Conducted over 11,381 eye operations and treatments. This included 731 cataract operations.
- Distributed 1,197 pairs of glasses
Research, training and technology
- Trained 706 teachers. As a result, tens of thousands of students were screened and hundreds were provided with glasses.
- Equipped 7 community health centres