The year 2020 didn’t turn out to be what we expected. The COVID-19 pandemic upended our plans (with respect to World Report on Vision launches, GA2020 and many others) and eye health services. However, the sector rallied and we had what can be called as wins. Despite this drastic turn of events, in Africa we still managed to achieve several great outcomes integral to our pursuit of strengthened eye health in the region.
The East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community 69th Health Ministers Conference was held in February 2020 under the theme: “Innovation and Accountability in Health Towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage.
At the end of the Health Minister’s Conference, the Ministers considered and passed resolutions which included ECSA/HMC69/R1: Equity and Access to Eye Health in the ECSA region. This resolution urges Member States to:
Implement integrated approaches for prevention, control and management of eye health conditions at all levels, with emphasis on primary health care;
Increase access to eye health services at all levels, by investing in and ensuring equitable distribution of Human Resources for Eye Health (HREH) and promote inclusion of eye health agenda at national, regional and international level; and
Promote generation and use of evidence in policy and practice to improve eye health.
Additionally, the resolution directs the ECSA HC Secretariat to:
Support the member states to implement this resolution; and
Generate and disseminate evidence on eye health care in the region
IAPB will continue to work with our partners in the ECSA-HC expert committee on eye health with its remit to raise and sustain the eye health agenda high at regional and national level in the ECSA-HC member states.
In January, the 10th Annual Meeting of Health Information Systems national managers, Technical and Financial Partners was organised by the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
During a session dedicated to Eye Health, IAPB presented on the WHO Catalogue of Key Eye Health Indicators in the African Region and advocated for the integration of Eye Health Indicators into national Health Information Management Systems.
The following key recommendations on Eye Health are part of the broader set of recommendations coming out of the meeting:
WAHO to work with regional Eye Health Partners to collect eye data in all countries for inclusion in the 2020 regional health situation;
Member States National Health Information Management Units to work with national Eye Health Programme Managers in order to identify and introduce the key eye health indicators in their Routine Health Data Collection System;
Partners to provide technical and financial support to WAHO and members to implement HIS priorities and activities for 2020
Moving forward, IAPB and WAHO will continue to work with member states and partners to identify and agree on 2-3 essential eye health indicators for integration into national Health Information Management Systems in the region. We will also support the implementation of the Eye Health data collection and reporting.
In 2018 WHO AFRO published The Primary Eye Care training manual.
In 2019, IAPB supported WHO AFRO in sensitising the Anglophone and Francophone countries of Africa on the PEC manual. In February 2020, the Lusophone countries were orientated on the training manual, following its translation into Portuguese.
The WHO AFRO NCD cluster held a two-day Orientation Meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, attended by Primary Care Unit Heads/Public Health Department Directors, National Eye Care Coordinators and Eye Health Partners of the Lusophone countries in the Region in order to support them in implementing the training manual at national level and to develop a plan its implementation.
Country representatives were encouraged to advocate for the implementation of the PEC Training Manual upon their return to their countries. The success in Rwanda was highlighted as an example that PEC could be strengthened and indeed implemented at the national level.
Other activities in 2020
The challenges of this year did however present new opportunities. We scaled up our online engagement with members and partners resulting in valuable interaction around dealing with COVID-19 in the eye health sector by way of virtual, group exchanges and a series of multi-lingual webinars. We also undertook the development of a system’s strengthening review, planning and advocacy framework called a Multisectoral Systems Review to support African countries fulfill the World Report on Vision obligation to: Engage in Integrated People Centred Eye Care.
In the coming year, 2021, we are looking to focus our efforts on implementing the recommendations of the World Report on Vision across the region by engaging with our sub-regional and national level partners with a view on moving closer to the goal of an integrated people-centred eye care that will accelerate universalization of health care services and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 Mozambique, Cape Verde, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe and Guinea Bissau
Image: Saving vision by James Arnold
Disclaimer:The views, ideas, technologies or policy positions in these blog posts belong to the authors and do not necessarily describe IAPB’s position or views on these matters.