On 9 March 2023 we held a second regional session of Advocacy to Action for Africa. Almost 50 participants attended the session. This Africa regional session focused on the on-ground experience of eye health advocacy in translating the global commitments at a national level.
Moses Chege, Country Director, Sightsavers, Kenya one of the panelists talked about the journey of developing eye health policy in Kenya. He spoke about how they were unaware about the policy process when they began advocating for eye health policy and the tremendous progress they were able to make afterwards. This all started with the need of an eye health policy to anchor the existing eye health strategy. With continued advocacy efforts the department of ophthalmic services unit, Ministry of Health mandated the national eye health working group to develop an eye health policy. The eye health taskforce was formed, which conducted a series of policy dialogues with the Ministry of health, county and national government, academia and other stakeholders to coordinate drafting a policy.
In response to a question about major challenges and how they overcame them, Chege stated that achieving balance between the two devolved governments in Kenya—county government, which is responsible for service delivery, and national government, which is responsible for setting standards—was difficult. Likewise, involving broader public and consolidating wider range of ideas in the draft was challenging. The taskforce, to overcome this, involved as many stakeholders as possible from all counties within the available resources. This would help garner support in the final stage, i.e., approval of the policy from the parliament.
Dr Boateng Wiafe, Technical Advisor, Operation Eyesight Universal explained about how the PPP concept has been successful in implementing eye care services in Ghana. The eye health stakeholders carried out a national population-based survey to find out about the eye health situation and plan eye health services. The partners in the Ghana PPP model for eye health services included- Ministry of Health Ghana health service, Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Faculty of Public Health, and NGO’s like OEU (lead), Red Cross, and Standard Chartered Bank. The partners had different contributions like protocol development, enumeration, analysis, financial support etc. which made the survey project cost effective for everyone. Surprisingly, the survey demonstrated different evidence than believed previously. Dr Bo emphasized the importance of strong advocacy in bringing everyone together for a common goal. The two major aspect of this project in Ghana that made it successful were the sense of mutual respect among all the partners and a common goal that they to aspired to achieve.
Fantahun Sisay, Project officer, The Fred Hollows Foundation, elaborated the country process on implementation of Integrated People-centered Eye Care in Ethiopia. The process commenced with policy dialogues with Ministry of Health. Sisay said the process contained four major milestones. Firstly, the inception workshop with all the identified stakeholders in leadership of Ministry of Health Ethiopia, and involving FHF Ethiopia, National Committee for Prevention of Blindness, international and national eye care organizations, WHO country office and WHO HQ. During the workshop, the stakeholders created shared roles among key stakeholders and established a technical working group to enhance coordination of IPEC. Secondly, Ethiopia conducted ECSAT (Eye Care Situation Assessment Tool), WHO’s questionnaire-based assessment tool designed to inform planning. Thirdly, a workshop for validation of the ECSAT findings. A series of discussions, advocacy workshops were organized among various professional associations to internalize the practice of IPEC. Lastly, based on the recommendation from ECSAT, Ministry of Health Ethiopia is working on drafting national eye health strategic plan.
This session was the first of the two sessions planned for Africa region this year. We request you to keep an eye on the IAPB newsletter and IAPB’s Advocacy to Action website for information about upcoming regional sessions.