The Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre in The Gambia has marked its 10-year anniversary with a high-profile event to celebrate its success providing eye health services and training in the region.
The centre aims to improve the eye health of the population of Health for Peace Initiative (HFPI) member countries by developing human resources for eye health, medical treatment and surgical intervention.
The anniversary event on 25 August coincided with the graduation ceremony of the 2016/2017 trainees of the Regional Ophthalmic Training Programme in The Gambia. Speaking at the event, Sightsavers Regional Director for West Africa Bakary Marong said: “We are excited that we are celebrating 10 years with significant breakthroughs. The achievement is impressive and it’s a privilege to serve our beneficiaries at this scale. There are huge opportunities to consolidate the gains and align Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre’s strategic direction towards the Sustainable Development Goals to make sure that no one is left behind.”
The keynote address at the ceremony was delivered by Professor Hannah Faal, who conceptualised the centre. Her address focused on teamwork and sustainable eye health. Professor Faal said: “The next decade for the Gambia National Eye Health Programme is here. SZRECC is its eye hospital; development of sub-specialities is its next stage. Secondary centres should become comprehensive eye services with ophthalmologists.”
During the week-long celebration, the centre organised radio and TV programmes, a symposium on the Sustainable Development Goals, non-communicable diseases and eye health, as well as a march to the eye centre in Kanifing. Despite the heavy August rains, staff, students, patients and partners came out in large numbers to take part.
The main event was attended by dignitaries including the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Cherno Umar Barry, who represented the Minister of Health, alongside the Director of Health Services, representatives of United Arab Emirates Embassy in Dakar, members from Vision Aid Overseas in Sierra Leone, and officials from the health ministries of Senegal and Liberia.
Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre officially opened in February 2007. It was built with funds provided by Sightsavers and Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan, a charitable and humanitarian foundation based in the UAE, at a cost of £2.4 million (€2.7 million). During the past 10 years, more than 32,000 sight-restoring surgeries have been performed at the centre, and 402 mid-level ophthalmic staff from 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have been trained at the Regional Ophthalmic Training Programme at the centre.