Friday: I arrive in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in west Africa, and take a taxi to Koudougou, south west of Ouagadougou and the region in which Orbis will be working. We're here to perform a scoping exercise as part of our plans to develop a new eye-care unit in the region. We are a small team, but our luggage doesn't fit into the boot of the car and some of our cases have to be balanced on top of the vehicle. We drive slowly!
Saturday: We are staying near the hospital, so we can meet the only ophthalmologist in the region without any more transportation issues. We observe some cataract surgeries so we can identify skills gaps and develop a training plan for the ophthalmologist and his staff. Then we have a meeting with an ophthalmologist from the city and, over our goat dinner, discuss the study on the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness that is due to take place in October. This will give us a better idea about the prevalence and main causes of blindness here.
Sunday: Mosquito bite-ridden, we return to the hospital and observe the ophthalmologist and his support staff following-up yesterday's operations. We feel we could help improve the surgical techniques, but all the patients are delighted to be able to see. We are given a tour of the department and develop an equipment list.
Monday: I'm up early to meet representatives of the L'Occitane Foundation-supported women's literacy groups. The foundation has supported our work for more than a decade and its links with local groups will prove vital in ensuring local people use the new eye-care services.
Tuesday: I meet officials from the Ministry of Health to explain the plans for the new unit, which will align with government eye-care policy. They seem happy, but they request a lot of paperwork. I meet another NGO that we hope will help with provision of glasses for the project. I come away feeling that this is a really promising partnership and project.
Orbis supports eye-care teams in developing countries.