In February, IAPB, in collaboration with the WHO AFRO Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) programme held a two-day Orientation Meeting in Accra, Ghana, with country representatives from Anglophone countries in the sub-Saharan Africa Region in order to support them in implementing the use of the Primary Eye Care Training Manual at national level, thus building and strengthening the ability of PHC personnel to adequately manage patients with eye complaints.
The country representatives were made up of Primary Eye Care unit Heads/Public Health department Directors and National Coordinators for the Prevention of Blindness of the Anglophone countries in the Region, as currently the training manual is available only in English. Similar orientation meeting will be organized once the French and Portuguese versions will be available after piloting in relevant Member States. Also in attendance were representatives from IAPB Member Agencies working in the Region.
The meeting objective was to sensitize countries in implementing the Primary Eye Care Training Manual to strengthen the management of eye diseases at primary health care level thus reinforcing their health systems.
During the meeting participants were introduced to the main aspects of the recently launched English version of the Primary Eye Care training manual package, including PEC principles, participant selection, enabling environment, eye examination algorithms and protocols, piloting, and national roll out. The successful experience of strengthening PEC in Rwanda by the Ministry of Health with the support from IAPB member Vision for a Nation was presented to the group as a case study.
Having been briefed on the PEC Training Manual and with a view on its implementation, the participants then looked at their own countries to review the structure of their respective national systems, identify the needs and gaps therein and determine the possible level of implementation and to identify the challenges.
Finally, the participants developed plans for the implementation of the PEC Training Manual. While countries were at different stages in terms of readiness to implement the PEC training, certain common objectives presented themselves:
- Customization of PEC manual to specific countries
- Determine which cadre will be trained in PEC
- Determine who will be the master trainers for each country
- Determine the size and location for implementation i.e. district pilot or national rollout
- Engage relevant stakeholders and mobilise support for the implementation
- Secure the necessary resources for the rollout and sustained implementation
It was requested that once countries had fully developed their implementation plans, that they would share these with IAPB who would communicate them to members seeking support. The success in Rwanda was raised as an example that PEC could be strengthened and indeed implemented at the national level. Country representatives were encouraged to advocate for the implementation of the PEC Training Manual upon their return to their countries.
In closing the meeting, the representative of WHO AFRO, congratulated the participants for the demonstrated interest which denoted their commitment to promoting PEC in their respective countries and recalled that Eye Health and PEC are central to Universal Health Coverage and that WHO is committed to supporting countries to move forward.
 Participating Anglophone countries: Botswana, Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe