An eye health project funded through an innovative financing approach has celebrated a monumental first year, screening more than 50,000 patients and providing cataract operations to more than 2,300 people in Cameroon.
The Cameroon Cataract Development Impact Loan, known as the Cameroon Cataract Bond, brings together public and private investors alongside eye care delivery experts and charities, including Sightsavers.
The loan is a type of development impact bond, in which investors provide financing for social programmes upfront. Donor organisations then repay investors their principal plus a return based on performance.
The bond is providing the funding for a new eye hospital, the Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute (MICEI), owned by the African Eye Foundation. As well as providing vital cataract surgery, the hospital will train eye health staff from the region, helping to improve local health systems and ensure they are self-sustaining.
In its first year, the hospital held 103 outreach camps to screen 11,284 patients, with a further 42,899 patients screened at the hospital. Staff at the hospital, including ophthalmologists and nurses, have also received training and mentoring.
The quality of operations exceeded World Health Organization standards, with 92 per cent of patients able to see much better following their surgery.
Financially, the hospital is performing better than anticipated after its first year and is on track to become financially sustainable within five years.
Primary donor and hospital founder Dr Akef el-Maghraby, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the Magrabi Hospital Group, said: “My goal is to make high-quality eye care accessible to the people of Cameroon, regardless of their ability to pay. This is the first project for the Africa Eye Foundation, and lays the foundation for a network of integrated and self-sustainable eye hospitalsthat the organisation plans to build across Africa.”
The Cameroon Cataract Bond is led by a coalition made up of Sightsavers, The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the African Eye Foundation and Volta Capital. It is financed with a $2 million loan to MICEI from The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Netri Foundation.