Created by Mr Christian Monnier in 1978, the Organisation pour la Prévention de la Cécité (OPC) is a Non-Governmental Organization, registered charity. The Charity’s patron is the President of France. Professor Yves Pouliquen has been Chairman since 1997.
The aims of the OPC are to research, promote and implement the most efficient means of preventing the occurrence of diseases that cause blindness and vision deficit in both France and French-speaking development countries.
Most of the OPC’s activities take place in Africa. To date it has worked in 17 Frenchspeaking countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean (12 countries in 2007 alone), one country in Asia (Vietnam) and one country in Eastern Europe (Moldavia) Fig.1. In the socio-economic and medical contexts of these countries, action consists of setting up the equipment required for ophthalmologic practice on a daily basis and guaranteeing the performance of quality surgical operations (specifically in the field of cataract, glaucoma and operations involving trachoma trichiasis and eye trauma). Since 1991, the OPC has been deeply involved in Programmes to Combat Onchocercosis in Sub-Saharan Africa. The efficiency of its action (over 3,200,000 people benefit from the various programmes) is highly appreciated by the authorities and local people, and is recognized by international bodies (Fig.2). Integration of primary ocular treatment (preventive and curative) into Ivermectine distribution programmes has been successfully achieved in Mali, Guinea, Senegal and, more recently in Congo.
Fig. 1: Mobile eye surgery unit, Chad © OPC.
Fig. 2: Ophthalmologic examination in Chad © OPC.
Since 1998 the OPC, working closely with the relevant departments in the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness1, has also invested in the worldwide effort to combat trachoma.
In 2002, the OPC started a programme to back up treatment capacity for partially sighted or blind patients in France by extending the range of its activities, initially in the fields of low vision and then in early screening for diabetic retinopathy (the project began in 2005, in partnership with the Valentin Haüy association). Results recorded by the various OPC programmes during 2007 are presented in tables 1, 2.1 and 2.2. The organization is dealing increasingly with training problems encountered by its African partners, particularly in the field of public health ophthalmology (where very few training courses are offered) and that of the development of “intermediate managers” in eye health: specialist nurses and/or specialist technicians in ophthalmology. A Training Division has been set up since 2003 to create programmes and teaching tools, to organize the training of nurses specializing in ophthalmology and to train managers in the management and administration of the eye health programmes with which they are entrusted. Chad was the first country to call on the Training Division. Fig.3. Since that date two classes of 12 nurses have been trained in N’Djamena. The Republic of Niger and the Comoro Union then asked the OPC to train their technicians. Also, on two occasions, the OPC (in partnership with the LCIF2 and its SightFirst project), has undertaken the training of 58 ophthalmologists or national managers in the field of public health ophthalmology. With the assistance of some of its partners (ASNAV3, Institut Servier), the Training Division finances grants for the training of staff specializing in ophthalmology, in the field of low vision.
Fig.1: OPC activities worldwide - Year 2007 (figures rounded down to the nearest hundred).
Fig 2.1: Activities of the OPC in France - Year 2007.
Fig. 2.2: Activities of the OPC in France - Year 2007.
Fig. 3: Training room for nurses specializing in ophthalmology, N'Djamena/Chad © OPC.
The OPC’s achievements vary in step with the generosity of its donors. The resources it has available do not allow it to carry out work programmes year after year that are too ambitious or even sufficient to meet the expectations and demands of its partners. The OPC is therefore constantly seeking new partners and means of finance.
To mention just one example, the OPC Programmes Management team has designed several screening projects for refraction defects in school children. Due to the lack of sufficient financial resources it is currently seeking partners to enable it to deploy this type of programme.
The Organization now has 30 years experience of work on every front: reinforcement of technical units and combats against diseases that cause blindness (first and foremost onchocercosis, and then trachoma, cataract awaiting surgery, neo-natal conjunctivitis, retinopathy, diabetes). It has built itself up on the solid basis of the “philosophy of humanitarian actions” of its “creators” and, over the years, has developed “in-house” know-how and numerous deep and lasting friendships in Africa (Fig.4).
Fig. 4: Circle of patients who have received surgery © OPC.
Relieving the scourge of blindness, combating the problems of poor vision whenever possible by offering innovative approaches… so that everyone can take advantage of light for as long as possible, in France and in less advantaged countries is of course an ambitious task… but many practical solutions already exist! Yet the energy and resources required for their distribution need to be brought together… such is the motto of OPC members.
Acknowledgements: Staff at OPC would like to thank the Management and Staff of Essilor for their commitment to its work.
1. Organization for the Prevention of Blindness, 7 villa d’Alésia, F-75014 Paris, tel. +33 1 44 12 41 90 email : firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
2. Lions Clubs International Foundation
3. Association Nationale pour l’Amélioration de la Vue (National Association for the Improvement of Vision)