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Mission to Guinea-Bissau: "a project for life”

Poster Details

First Author: T.Painhas PORTUGAL

Co Author(s):    R. Bastos-Amorim   D. Coelho   A. Vitorino   D. Correia   R. Silva   L. Gonçalves

Abstract Details


Blindness is a leading global health issue. Our goal is to describe a non-profitable humanitarian mission created in 2010 by Portuguese ophthalmologists to eradicate as much unnecessary blindness as possible in Guinea-Bissau.


Guinea-Bissau: Cumura Hospital and Ondame Hospital


In the least-developed countries, and in particular Sub-Saharan Africa, the causes of avoidable blindness are, primarily, cataract (50%), glaucoma (15%), corneal opacities (10%), trachoma (6.8%), childhood blindness (5.3%) and onchocerciasis (4%). (World Health Organization). Guinea-Bissau is the fifth poorest country in the world, based on the United Nations Human Development Index. With a population of about 1.6 million, there are only three ophthalmologist and two orthotic technicians in the whole country. The humanitarian mission “Visão Guine” was created in 2010, being coordinated by Dr. Luís Gonçalves. A group of Portuguese ophthalmologists and nurses went to Guinea-Bissau four times since then. Starting from the first mission, our work included consultations, surgery and providing refraction services. However, further along, it was understood that Guinea-Bissau’s needs also required the formation of the local ophthalmologists, to change people’s thoughts and believes (namely the excessive belief in traditional healers) and to improve ophthalmology services. In 2011, this program had the recognition of an international jury created by the ESASO, being distinguished with the “Excellence in Ophthalmology Vision Award” (XOVA), for the creation of a training center in ophthalmology at Cumura Hospital.


The mission’s goal is to improve eye care services at Guinea-Bissau. This is achieved, notably, by teaching ophthalmic care at all levels, establishing self-sustaining eye care centers, as well as training local ophthalmologists in modified small incision cataract surgery to perform sutureless cataract operations, with excellent outcomes. The mission supplied the Cumura Hospital with ophthalmology books and performed several facoemulsificatiom wet labs, one of them in Portugal with one ophthalmologist from Guinea-Bissau and his team. Since the beginning of the project, a total of 3500 consultations and 300 surgeries were performed in Guinea-Bissau. The large majority of surgical interventions performed include cataract operations with phacoemulsification, a few extracapsular cataract extraction and trachoma surgery. Several patients show up with severe infections in the cornea and anterior segment, trauma, tumors, advanced glaucoma, allergies and pathologies that affect their eye and general health. A great number of these patients were previously treated locally with herbs and traditional medications by traditional healers, some of them resulting in iatrogenic scars.


We have supplied the Cumura Hospital with modern equipment for its consultation, operating rooms and the consumables and materials required to perform modern ocular surgery. We have taught theoretical and practical courses in cataract surgery, glaucoma, and infectious diseases of the eye to the local team. Our group has also conducted many patient consultations, performed cataract surgeries to help those blinded by cataracts, and donated spectacles. There still too much to do, but these small gestures can really make a difference to this people. With this contribution, Cumura Hospital and the local population are much more self-sustained today than two years ago.

Financial Disclosure:


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