Comm Eye Health Vol. 27 No. 88 2014 pp 63. Published online 01 April 2015.

Working with the community in Cameroon

Okwen Marvice

is the resident ophthalmologist at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, a large NGO-funded hospital in the North-West of Cameroon. Patients come from across the country, and even from neighbouring countries Nigeria and Gabon, for treatment. The eye department conducts almost 15,000 eye consultations a year and provides in- and out-patient services, community outreach and school screening.

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Volunteers spread awareness about glaucoma. CAMEROON. Mbingo Baptist Hospital
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It is our duty to educate the community about common eye conditions. We attend village meetings and church services, collaborate with traditional rulers and local clinics to raise awareness, and give talks on community radio to educate the community about primary eye care and eye health. We focus on the following key messages, which are aimed at all community members:

  • Have an eye check-up once a year, even if the eye is not painful (glaucoma is common in the area).
  • Have regular check-ups if you have previously diagnosed with eye diseases; attend immediately if a problem with the eyes occurs.
  • Avoid using traditional medicines or self-medication if you have an eye problem or a painful eye.
  • Ensure children do not play with sticks or sharp objects.

We offer free eye check-ups at least once a year, train school teachers in visual acuity testing and in the identification and referral of children with eye problems. We also screen motorcycle riders for eye problems.

Our outreach services are organised with the help of fi eld workers and volunteers and are sponsored by several international NGOs, including CBM and the International Response to Improve Sight (IRIS). Activities include performances during Glaucoma Week and World Sight Day, and community discussions in the local language, often led by former patients who tell the communities about their own experience attending the eye clinic. We believe that working in close collaboration with local health centres (who provide space for screening), community leaders, and social and religious groups, ensures that community members actively take part. This makes them more likely to change their behaviour.

Since the launch of the programme to reach out into the local communities and to educate them about eye care and where to access our services, the hospital has seen greater attendance for asymptomatic conditions, more people coming for annual screening, higher referral rates from teachers of children with eye conditions, and increased local knowledge about eye health.

For further information about the work of Mbingo Baptist Hospital, visit