Up to 75% of all blindness and visual impairment is preventable, but it takes the right human resources to stop these conditions in their tracks. This is why, since 2016, Orbis International Africa, in partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in Africa, the Amref International University and the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA), has rolled out Human Resources for Eye Health strengthening activities in the Eastern and Southern Africa region. The HReH initiative aims to create a group of leaders who will turn the tide on blindness and visual impairment in Africa. With a long-term solution in mind, the initiative is working towards developing a strong cohort of African leaders that does not rely on external support and will address the unmet eye health needs in Eastern and Southern Africa. Seven key institutions in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia are benefitting from the Orbis-led initiative that is being rolled out in collaboration with various implementation partners.
Recent successes within the HReH Initiative includes the effective rollout of a Twinning Programme. The programme, based on partnerships between teaching institutions in Africa and globally, has enabled exchange visits between heads of departments so that faculty can learn and share best practices in the running of residency programmes. One of the beneficiaries of the Orbis-funded Twinning Programme is Dr Petros Kayange, Head of the Ophthalmology Unit at the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi. Dr Kayange attended an observership at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in June and July 2018.
“The mentorship visit at the University of Alberta in Canada was well organised and intensive, but also extremely rewarding. I learned many lessons and most of the lessons can be applied at my teaching hospital to enhance the teaching of students, development of the department and career development for young faculty.”
— Dr Petros Kayange
Leading from the front
There are various challenges in the governance, leadership and management of health systems in sub-Saharan Africa. In response to these challenges, in 2017, Orbis launched the Amref-accredited Governance, Leadership and Management (GLM) Training Programme. The course, first presented at a workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in June 2017, is set up to help equip eye health professionals with the skills to competently navigate the critical processes in the health systems of their respective countries. It also provides them with skills on how to mobilise and advocate for resources for health, develop relevant health policies towards improved services, and implementation across various levels in their facilities and health systems.
The second GLM Training Programme was held in Blantyre in July 2018, all of whom are the first graduates of the Amref, Orbis, COECSA leadership training programme. Eleven ophthalmologists, from Eastern, Central and Southern Africa learned how to coordinate relevant stakeholders in the health sector and how to make timely and responsive decisions based on reputable evidence. The group also developed their skills in planning, prioritising and budgeting for health needs in their facilities and within the national policies.
“We envision a stronger network of African teaching institutions in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, with a focus on developing leaders. By getting the Human Resource for Eye Health component right, we will have the right people in the right place with the right skills at the right time.”
— Dr Ibrahim Matende, President, COECSA