Ophthalmic  surgical training
IN West Africa, BY West Africa, FOR West Africa



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Ophthalmic Surgical Training IN West Africa, BY West Africa, FOR West Africa to standards approaching those of Western Europe.



Our mission is to increase the number of courses run in the Lions International Eye Centre to five per year, thus providing sub-speciality training to between 15 and 20 ophthalmic surgeons each year.


There are 2.6 million blind people in West Africa, but 90% of this blindness is preventable, if only the right sight services are available. Our aim is to raise sight services in West Africa to a level approaching those of Western Europe. According to the World Health Organisation, visual impairment is one of the most significant health problems in West African. The major eye conditions include cataracts, uncorrected refractive errors, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma and onchocerciasis, and millions of people in the region remain at risk of visual loss due to the lack of eye-care services.

Ophthalmologists needed

Adequately trained eye care personnel, as well as an effective and efficient system to deliver eye care services, are integral to achieving the goals of VISION 2020, which include achieving a minimum ratio of at least one ophthalmologist per 250,000 population. Currently there are about 650 ophthalmologists in West Africa, about half of the minimum ratio required. Two thirds of these have only had limited training to enable them to deal with cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness.

Past chances of improvement

Until recently there have been no real opportunities within the region for ophthalmologists to improve themselves through continuing medical education or training in specific aspects of eye care (e.g. lid surgery, glaucoma surgery, etc). The only option was to travel to other continents, putting such training out of reach for the majority, both financially and logistically. Those that did leave often did not return. Consequently, the range of eye care available in West Africa is limited. There are, for example, no corneal services. The quality of eye care is also often poor in many places.

A giant step forward

Working with the West African College of Surgeons, we have developed a new curriculum for training ophthalmologists. Our training concept is an innovative approach designed to provide training in short bursts, as local surgeons are unable to be away for long periods. Each trainee is required to complete an online course to obtain the necessary theoretical knowledge, before attending a practical course at the Lions International Eye Centre, Korle Bu. Thus, our training includes generic skills, background knowledge and operative skills.

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