Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

University of Ulster researchers bring eye tests to Mozambique

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 17/10/2014

Dr Lisa O'Donoghue treats children in Mozambique
Dr Lisa O'Donoghue treats children in Mozambique
Dr Lisa O'Donoghue treats children in Mozambique

Researchers from Northern Ireland have helped to create a "new era" for eye health and prevent blindness in Mozambique through a major project.

Eyecare in the African country hardly existed but working as part of the Mozambique Eyecare Project, University of Ulster researchers have assisted in teaching their first ever fully qualified optometrists.

Trained and accredited at the University of Lúrio in northern Mozambique, they will now provide vital services to 23 million people.

Experts and students from Northern Ireland, together with Dublin Institute of Technology, University of Lúrio and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, treated adults and children, as well as trained new opticians, since 2009.

Dr Lisa O'Donoghue from University of Ulster, who was involved in the project, spent time treating children and said it was a rewarding experience.

"Eyecare really didn't exist in that part of Mozambique at all," she said.

"I think we take so much for granted here.

"All the children here have access to an eye examination.

"We did see children with very significant problems that went undetected."

The lecturer in optometry revealed that the project went out into the community, taking their skills to some of the disadvantaged areas. She said: "We were out in schools testing children to see how big the problem was and the undergraduate students were acting as translators.

"Then we were trying to train them up as well."

By 2015, it is expected that more than 30 optometrists will have been trained to deliver primary eye care and refractive services to address the needs of the people in the country.

Ms O'Donoghue said: "I think this project has made an unbelievable difference to the Mozambican people because this project was to try and provide something that was sustainable.

"So we were not just going in and treating and leaving so the problem was still there.

"This embedded eyecare services and a system so it trained Mozambican people – their first graduates in 2013 are now working for the health service and are very dedicated."

Professor Kathryn Saunders, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Ulster, said the project has benefited both the African people and the researchers. "The people of Mozambique are now benefiting from comprehensive eye examinations – a service which will grow and extend across the country as more graduates take their optometric skills out into the community," she said.

"We believe that this is the beginning of a new era for eye health in Mozambique and the university is proud to have played such an integral role."

Background

Experts and students from the University of Ulster, together with Dublin Institute of Technology, University of Lúrio and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, have treated adults and children as well as trained new opticians in Mozambique. They were involved in the Mozambique Eyecare Project. In April this year a total of 733 Mozambicans had eye tests.

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