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Message from Light for the World on COVID-19

Published: 09.05.2020

Light for the World is a global disability & development organization, breaking down barriers to enrich society and unlock the potential among the people they serve.

The  current focus countries include Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda. One of the key areas for Light for the World is to strengthen comprehensive eye health services in low-income countries. Each of the focus countries has registered confirmed covid-19 persons.

Eye health activities in all the focus countries have been greatly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. The regional colleges of ophthalmology have provided guiding principles to ophthalmologists which can be adapted to suit local circumstances.

The lockdowns have resulted in reduced traffic to hospitals in all departments. Eye clinic activities have been scaled down to respond to emergencies only and the emergency lists may vary slightly in the different countries. For example, in some hospitals all eye patients go through the emergency unit where triage is done and a decision made whether they can proceed to the eye department for further management. Until recently temperature measurement was the main screening armament; however, new information of the asymptomatic nature that the infection may take, more caution is being taken. The assumption now is that every patient presenting to the casualty department is assumed to be a covid-19 suspect until proved otherwise. This has necessitated availing more personal protective equipment for health staff which equipment is in short supply in all the focus countries. Light for the World quickly responded to this need at one of the main treatment/isolation centres in Uganda by providing sanitizers and communication units so health staff don’t need to go to isolation rooms all the time but can monitor patients using intercom. It’s important to point out that procuring these items was not spared from the logistical hurdles that are in place resulting from lockdown regulations.

Covid-19 is likely to bring about significant changes in eye clinical practice. The more intimate examinations like fundoscopy using the direct ophthalmoscope may cease to be routine. The improvised (using laminating paper) extended barrier between patient and doctor is likely to become a standard part of the slit lamp. The draping of patients undergoing cataract surgery is likely to change to ensure that patient and surgeon are protected from each other.

Light for the World continues to contribute to the safety of the health personnel in all the focus countries by procuring more protective equipment and supporting Ministries of Health as best we can.

With most of the staff in the country offices working from home, Light for the World using virtual meetings is leading the process of reviewing the country programme plans with possible scenarios of how going forward in view of the covid-19 pandemic may impact our work.

Disability Inclusion in Community Development (DICD) programmes: Activities that are associated with travel or groupings of people have been suspended in all the focus countries. However, awareness raising with regard to Covid-19 for the clients is being done through radio programmes to supplement other national initiatives. Some programmes continue to give advice to clients over the phone.

Education and Communication: Awareness raising tools & information, education & communication tools are being translated to braille print and sign language (video) as is the philosophy of Light for the World to “leave no one behind”.