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Six Figure Cash Injections Strengthens Eye Healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal is one step closer to eliminating avoidable vision loss in children living in the province. Home to nearly a quarter of South Africa’s children under the age of six, KwaZulu-Natal also has the highest prevalence of childhood visual impairment in the country.

Orbis Africa, a non-profit organisation that works to reduce preventable and treatable blindness and visual impairment on the continent, received significant funding from the Japanese Embassy to South Africa, earmarked to purchase specialised eye health equipment.

The R1million plus donation from the Japanese Embassy enabled Orbis Africa to purchase highly specialised pieces of equipment that were officially handed over to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of the Health at a ceremony held at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday 27 January 2016.

“The donation to Orbis Africa from the Government of Japan was made possible through its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). The GGP is intended to assist NGOs and local authorities in addressing development needs in areas such as education, health, water supply, climate change and in a variety of other local needs. The GGP scheme was first introduced in 1989 and between April 2014 and March 2015 the Embassy of Japan extended GGP assistance to 14 projects, amounting to approximately R13 million,” Embassy of Japan in South Africa at the Grant Assistance for Grass Roots Human Security Projects.

Grey’s Hospital was identified as one of three hospitals in the province that requires equipment in order to optimise child eye health service delivery. As the only tertiary hospital in the uMgungundlovu district, Grey’s Hospital serves over three million people, 80% of whom are unable to afford private medical care. The Eye Clinic receives patients from more than twenty local clinics as well as nineteen primary and regional hospitals with some patients travelling as far as 400kms.

“The Japanese Embassy’s support has seen Grey’s Hospital Eye Clinic become one of the best equipped units in the province. The impact that the unit is able to have as a result of the investment is immeasurable. The team is now better equipped to not only restore sight but also dignity, and their work plays a significant role in improving socioeconomic conditions for the patients and their families,” says Lene Øverland, Orbis Africa CEO.

Orbis Africa has been working in KwaZulu-Natal in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health since 2010, to strengthen child eye health services through investing in human resources, providing equipment and consumables and raising public awareness about the importance of child eye health.

“The financial constraints in Grey’s Hospital severely affected our ability to procure equipment for the eye clinic. The donation of equipment has already had a significant impact on our capacity. For example, the donation of two slit lamps with image capture has almost doubled the number of patients that can be seen, since not every doctor had his own slit lamp. This is now also the first time that we can capture, archive and compare images. We now send images to the USA and other countries for assistance with difficult cases,” explains Dr Carl-Heinz Kruse, Head of Ophthalmology at Grey’s Hospital.

Dr Siphiwe Mndaweni, Deputy Director General: District Health Services, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, says “The Department of Health is extremely grateful to the Japanese Embassy for the donated equipment valued at just over R1million and is appreciative to Orbis Africa for their ongoing commitment to strengthen child eye health services in the province. It will help the Department fulfil its mandate to deliver quality health care to all the people of the province, considering that the KwaZulu-Natal Government recently launched the state of the art McCord Provincial Eye Hospital.”

“Indeed, this donation will go a long way towards ensuring that no one is unnecessarily blind or visually impaired as a result of effective public private partnerships. This collaboration between the Department of Health, Orbis Africa and the Japanese Embassy is proof that quality eye healthcare for all is possible when committed partners and stakeholders share a common goal. Once again, thank you to all involved,” says Dr Mndaweni.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Orbis Africa:

Helen White +27 82 824 2267 / helen.white@orbis.org.za
Frano Loots +27 82 454 2369 / frano.loots@orbis.org.za

More on Orbis Africa

Orbis Africa is affiliated to Orbis International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the improvement of eye health globally since its inception in 1982. Orbis has longstanding strength in training and capacity building with innovative and high impact tools at its disposal, including the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital and Cybersight which are set to take on new challenges in health system strengthening. For more information visit www.orbis.org.za

More on Grey’s Hospital

Grey’s Hospital, located in Pietermaritzburg, is a referral hospital providing 20% regional and 80% tertiary services within the uMgungundlovu health district, which has an approximate population of 1 million people. Tertiary services are offered to the western half of KwaZulu-Natal which includes 5 health districts with a total population of 3.5 million. Grey’s Hospital was founded in 1855 and recently celebrated its 160th birthday.

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