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Training an ophthalmologist to provide life restoring eye care in Rwanda

Duration: 2019 to 20121
Local partner: Kabgayi Eye Unit

Rwanda has a chronic shortage of eye care personnel, especially in rural areas. Along with the high cost of equipment and treatment, this is a significant obstacle to the poorest people accessing basic eye care services. The objective of this project is to train a local ophthalmologist who will provide eye care services especially to the poor.


Rwanda is home to 12 million people, distributed over a large area. Whereas New Zealand has over 160 ophthalmologists, there are just 18 in Rwanda living solely in the capital city. Consequently people living outside in the rural areas are especially vulnerable to avoidable blindness and visual impairment particularly from cataracts and glaucoma.

Kabgayi Eye Unit performs about 6,000 surgeries per year, almost 80% of all eye surgeries in Rwanda. The unit also provides specialist eye care for people from neighbouring poor countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

People in the poorest rural communities cannot afford to leave work or pay the cost of travel for post-surgery checkups. So Kabgayi provides ongoing specialist training to improve the overall quality of surgery and services as a step towards eradicating avoidable blindness in Rwanda.


The main objective is to

  •  Support the training of one additional ophthalmologist.

Secondary objectives are to

  • Improve specialist knowledge of eye conditions and care for patients.
  • Ensure eye care services effectively manage staff, transport and financial audit costs.



Theo’s dad never knew the joy a parent has when their child sees them come into a room, that moment when their face lights up from recognition. Because of cataracts, the blinding white curtains growing inside his eyes, Theo couldn’t see his dad.

Read Theo's story