Interview with Doctor Yaya

Interview with Dr Yaya, Representative for the OPC in the Central African Republic (CAR)

(29th August 2010)

Roles :
- Lecturer in the faculty for science and health (Faculté des Sciences de la Santé- FACSS), Bangui University
- Head of ophthalmology department in the Bangui Central University Hospital
- Programme Director for the National fight against blinding diseases

What were the reasons for creating a training course for ophthalmic nurses (TSOs) at the heart of the faculty for science and health (FACSS) at Bangui University (UB) ?

The creation of this course is considered a priority because human resources in ophthalmology are rare in our country : 4 ophthalmologists and 12 ophthalmic nurses. Moreover, because of the importance of the Central University Hospital (CNHUB), the largest group of available personnel is in Bangui. Up until now, training someone in eye healthcare, which is very much needed, has been done outside of the country (mainly in Mali and Congo and sometimes in Kenya if the applicant speaks English) : this has proved very expensive. Only students with a student loan can take the course and sometimes the studies undertaken do not fulfil the needs felt throughout the CAR.

More than two years ago, the OPC set up a Mobile Eye Surgery Unit (Unité Mobile de Chirugie Oculaire- UMCO) to improve surgical activities in the fight against blindness. How is it going ?

Since it was set up the UMCO has carried out 8 missions, which, equipped by the OPC, have distributed ophthalmological services mainly in the Berberati and Bambari regions. Over the past two years more than 1000 cataracts have been operated on thanks to this precious tool which provides patients with the surgery they need. The UMCO has held more than 4000 consultations, operated on more than 400 trichiasis and around fifty trabeculectomies.

The people and the authorities appreciated the missions carried out by the UMCO, and the local authorities, both administrative and health related, did everything they could to accommodate the members of the team.

However, the problem is that of sustainability : the recovery of costs, still insufficiently organised, continues to prevent autonomy for each of these missions with regards to fuel supply and compensation for team members.

Furthermore, the UMCO expeditions are confined to travelling only where it is authorised, due to prevailing instability in some areas of the country.

What are the current needs of the PNLC ? (Programme Nationale pour la Lutte contre la Cécité - National Programme for the Fight against Blindness ?)

Having the OPC’s permission to strengthen our technical platforms in the ophthalmology department at CNHUB as well as in regional centres at Berberati, Bambari and soon Bria, the most pressing need is the retraining of some of the older specialist ophthalmic nurses (TSOs) who have held their post for a number of years but have not benefitted from continued regular training. We know that the Director of Training at the OPC excels in this domain and we hope to benefit from her expertise to strengthen what we tried to start last year.

The PNLC would also like to finalise the mapping of trachoma so that it can have access to an allowance of Azithromycin.

What does the OPC need to do to support projects for the fight against blindness in the CAR ?

As well as the issues mentioned previously, we would like to request the support of the OPC to continue the allowance of food for the UMCO and to improve the technical platform at CNHUB with respect to “functional surgeries”.

What do you think of the partnership between the Ministry of Health, Bangui University and the OPC ?

This tripartite relationship is appreciated by everybody and is considered exemplary. This is reinforced by the educational mission run by Dr A-D Négrel and the work sessions held at the Chief Education Office in UB in the Faculty of Science and Health. It is important to remember that the Chief Education Officer, the Dean of the FACSS and myself are calling for the renewal of this particular mission. Just like Professor Bobossi Sérengobi, our Chief Education officer, the National Minister for Education, Higher Education and Research particularly appreciates the OPC’s involvement in the development of human resources and hopes that the experience acquired from having set up the training course for TSOs will serve as a catalyst and a model for the development of similar projects such as dentistry, lab technicians etc. of which this country is in great need.

We could not have dreamt of a partnership as talented and multi-faceted as that of the OPC : after having improved our services, set up the UMCO, prepared a report for the financing of a training course for TSOs at FACSS, the Director of Training at the OPC offered us a training workshop for our teachers which is now the envy of many other health departments. The health and university authorities, through me, show their gratitude to the administrative team at the OPC and its executive director, most appreciated by our country, for all of the progress made and paths forged in the past 6 years.