March 17, 2016 - A new agreement between the Malagasy Ministry of Health, HelpMeSee, and Lions Sight First Madagascar (LSFM) will expand access to quality cataract surgical care dramatically in Madagascar. The agreement follows a successful pilot in 2015 and extensive preparations for a nation-wide health campaign.
At a press conference led by Madagascar’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Hery Andriamanjato, the Ministry’s Director of Partnerships, confirmed that cataract surgery would be included in the government’s upcoming universal health care program.
"This is the partnership we need, especially at this moment," added Dr. Herlyne Ramihantaniarivo, Director General of Madagascar’s Ministry of Health.
Cataracts are the cause of 64% of blindness and 86% of severe visual impairment in Madagascar.
"Over the past 19 years, Lions Sight First Madagascar, with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, supported over 68,000 cataract surgeries in forty-four hospitals and clinics all over the country. We also trained forty Malagasy surgeons as part of "Chirurgie Oculaire Essentielle" for essential eye care. Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) is already performed with several of our partners, including Salfa Clinical Lutheran Church in Ambohibao, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa and Sambava and public hospitals in Mahajanga and Tamatave. HelpMeSee’s support for training will significantly increase the number of surgeons across the country and improve access to Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS)," said Lion MJF Olivier Rabenjamina, President of Lions Sight First Madagascar. With the high demand for training of 150 to 180 qualified cataract surgeons, HelpMeSee will begin to accelerate the training of additional cataract surgeons in 2016.
Essential surgical care for cataracts remains inaccessible in much of the country in part because almost two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas. To address this need for expanded care, the tripartite agreement includes an emphasis on improving the skills of existing surgeons and training more to provide access to sight-restoring care in all districts of Madagascar.
"Right to sight should be fundamental in health care services and delivery to reach every Malagasy who needs cataract surgery, from Antsiranana in the north to Tulear and Fort Dauphin in the south," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. "I am inspired by the commitment of the Ministry of Health and Lions Sight First Madagascar to create a nationally sustainable solution through the universal health care plan."
At the official launch event in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, nine surgeons from HJRA, HelpMeSee’s first partner hospital in the country, received their certifications in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), part of a joint program between the University of Marseilles and the University of Antananarivo. Dr. Jean-marie André, HelpMeSee’s Medical Officer for Africa, led the training. HelpMeSee’s technologies for patient mobilization, surgical delivery and surgical quality assurance will all play a key role as the operations scale nationwide. These include HelpMeSee Reach, a smartphone app for patient screening and mobilization, HelpMeSee’s single-use, pre-sterilized MSICS kit, and cloud-based surgical quality assurance programs to monitor the outcomes of care.
HelpMeSee’s technologies for patient mobilization, surgical delivery and surgical quality assurance will all play a key role as the operations scale nationwide. These include HelpMeSee Reach, a smartphone app for patient screening and mobilization, HelpMeSee’s single-use, pre-sterilized MSICS kit and cloud-based surgical quality assurance programs to monitor the outcomes of care.
The first shipment of 903 pre-sterilized, single-use cataract surgical kits are already in use in Antananarivo with another 2,000 expected to follow soon to complement the partnership launch.
About Lions Sight First Madagascar
Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 46,000 clubs serving communities in more than 210 countries and geographical areas worldwide. Since 1917, Lions Clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives and strengthened local communities through hands-on service and humanitarian projects.
Lions Sight First Madagascar (LSFM) is a nonprofit national organization of 50 Lions and Leo Clubs members all over the country committed to improving access to eye care and developing comprehensive eye care services, including cataract screening and surgery, refraction and affordable glasses projects, screening and treatment of diabetic retinopathy and treatment of conjunctivitis. Since 1997 with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, their program to treat cataract blindness has brought sight to 68,318 people living in remote communities across Madagascar. 69,683 pairs of glasses have been delivered under refraction and affordable glasses project. With support from Lions Clubs International Foundation, LSFM will perform 11,500 cataract surgeries over the next 30 months.
HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands of specialists (mostly women) to perform high quality, high volume MSICS surgery throughout the developing world. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 243,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.