A young South African child with retinoblastoma, wearing a multicoloured hat

Fighting Blindness in South Africa

South Africa is home to an enormous blind population and has a severe shortage of ophthalmologists to serve them. In all of South Africa, there are only 324 ophthalmologists, most of who work in built up cities. Countrywide there are only a few fully qualified pediatric ophthalmologists.

Success in South Africa

Following the success of Orbis’s first project in South Africa, which established a tertiary child eye care hospital and strengthened the eye health system in KwaZulu-Natal, Orbis Africa was invited to work in Gauteng Province. In 2015 Orbis signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health, establishing a formal relationship to strengthen eye health services in Gauteng Province.

Through a dynamic public private partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health and national retailer Truworths, Orbis has transformed the Eye Clinic at Lenasia South Community Health Centre. The upgrade has resulted in strengthened eye health services at the facility and an improved patient experience.

We implemented ground breaking work at a grass-roots level through collaboration with Early Childhood Development practitioners and Traditional Healers in the informal sector.

A consortium of partners consisting of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Orbis Africa and Dublin Institute of Technology has committed to a five-year collaboration, with national government, to develop an integrated framework for comprehensive child eye health services in South Africa. One of the key objectives of the consortium is to advocate and work in synergy to support the National Departments of Health, Basic Education and Social Development to deliver services to children as prescribed in the existing national and international policy and campaigns.

In 2011, we supported the opening of a state-of-the-art pediatric eye care center in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the poorest and most populous provinces – home to 28 percent of the country’s blind children. This center makes KwaZulu-Natal only the second province to have a child-focused eye care facility in the country.

We are working with the Department of Health in Gauteng to strengthen child eye health services. This will be achieved by improving surgical skills and making more equipment available at tertiary care facilities in the province.

As part of our work, we’re also initiating an extensive public awareness campaign in the mainstream and community press highlighting childhood blindness and steps the public can take to against avoidable blindness.

Through the power of film, Orbis Africa hopes to break down barriers to vital medical intervention that could prevent childhood blindness.

What We’re Doing Next

We’ve partnered with the Ophthalmology Department at the University of Cape Town, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and other thought leaders to develop a specialist pediatric fellowship program for African doctors.

In 2017 we opened the second cataract surgical centre in Gauteng that is equipped and resourced to tackle the significant backlog in adult cataract surgery in the province.

With your continued help and support we can build a lasting eye care legacy in South Africa for generations to come.


Help us Fighting Blindness in South Africa

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