Congratulations to one of our newly formed VOSH chapters in Ghana, ably led by Dr. Abena Ntim, OD MSC, who had their first outreach mission in March.

Dr. Ntim and VOSH Ghana, in conjunction with Rotary Club of Accra West, organised a free eye screening and education for the people of Kitase and the surrounding community on March 19, 2016. VOSH and the Rotarians, 24 optometry students from KNUST School of Optometry and local dignitaries worked together on this historical event.

Held at the Kitase primary school, Dr. Ntim reports that “the program started at 9am in the morning with a brief education on how to take care of the eyes and some symptoms of common eye problems that need medical attention. A total of 152 people were screened with 55 children and 97 adults. 74 of them were given eye glasses and 81 of them received medication. 48 of them were also referred to the nearest eye center for further management.”

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Dr. Ntim also shared that “Common eye conditions seen were cataract, glaucoma, retinopathies, refractive errors, presbyopia and allergic conjunctivitis. The commonest eye condition seen in the children was vernal conjunctivitis and among the elderly was presbyopia. Cataract and refractive error were the second highest in the adults and children respectively.”

The VOSH Technology Transfer Program (TTP) was able to provide acuity charts, trial lens sets, ophthalmoscopes and retinoscopes to VOSH Ghana. Arrangements are being made to supply them with more scopes, trial lens sets and trial frames, pen lights, readers and frames for their future outreach clinics.

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Dr. Ntim has the admirable goal of four outreach clinics a year. Thanks to Dr. Mark Rakoczy, OD , from VOSH-PA for providing mentorship to Dr. Abena as she organized her first outreach. The partnership between the Rotary Club of Accra West and VOSH-GHANA hopefully will endure for years to come and be a model for other African nations as VOSH chapters evolve.

Ellen L. Weiss, OD, FVI, President

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021