Collaborating to save children's sight in sub-Saharan Africa

20 May 2011 | Story by Newsroom

Prof Colin CookEyes right: Prof Colin Cook, head of UCT's Division of Ophthalmology.

Thirty-nine million people worldwide are blind - but 75% of them don't need to be.

To address this global problem, specifically among children in sub-Saharan Africa, UCT's Division of Ophthalmology is the new home for the Southern African headquarters of ORBIS, a multinational NGO focussed on treating preventable blindness.

In partnership with UCT and the Red Cross Children's Hospital, ORBIS (Latin for of the eye) will focus on education, granting fellowships and offering training from foreign specialists in a bid to provide the region with a "sustainable model for paediatric ophthalmology development", according to Joni Watson, business development manager of ORBIS Southern Africa.

"We've had huge support from the division, especially Professor Colin Cook, who has given us advice as well as free office space at the division," says Watson.

Speaking at the Comprehensive Eye Care for Children in Sub-Saharan Africa conference on 4 May, Cook, head of UCT's Division of Ophthalmology, stressed the importance of the partnership. "Half of childhood blindness in Africa is avoidable. Early Intervention is very important both in the community and at a tertiary level."

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