A gift 12 years in the making

In 2021, Research Officer Dr Thomas Rogerson led a follow up survey into the prevalence of different causes of blindness and severe visual impairment in Cambodian children. This survey was supervised by Sight For All’s Co-Founder, Vice-Chair and Research Committee Chair Dr Robert Casson and supported by Sight For All’s Cambodian Country Officer, Mr Sith Sam Ath.

The study was a 12year follow up survey of visual impairment and blindness in four schools for the blind in Cambodia. The findings of the 2009 Sight For All study has had very real and influential usages; data has been used by the Cambodian Ministry of Health (MOH), Cambodian National Programme for Eye Health as well as Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) such as Sight For All to inform interventions to reduce the prevalence of preventable blindness in children.

Following the success of the 2009 study, a survey was designed to determine the current causes of blindness and severe visual impairment in Cambodian children. The findings will be used to inform future projects, intervention plans and eye health care procedures.

The data was collected by a paediatric ophthalmology team, who surveyed the students in four schools for the blind in Cambodia. The data collected were recorded on internationally recognised standard formats (WHO/PBL eye examination record for children with blindness and low vision) and were reviewed by the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology.

The 2021/2022 survey found that the largest contributory cause of blindness was corneal conditions (28% of all those surveyed). Cataracts accounted for 18% of vision impairment followed closely by retinal causes, primarily unspecified dystrophy. Of note is that there was only one patient with two eyes afflicted with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) however as outcomes for premature neonates in Cambodia improve we expect that this will come to represent an increasing proportion of childhood blindness and ROP remains a key area of focus for Sight For All in country.

With thanks to the support from Marty Holmes and One Sight in March 2022, Sight For All was able to send low vision aids and prescription glasses to the children surveyed, from the schools for the blind. These were received by the surveyed children who needed new spectacle.

The data from the survey will also be distributed to multiple channels to inform future policies to care of children’s eyes in Cambodia.

Find out more about our Paediatric Ophthalmology projects here.

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