Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences

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Ocular morbidity among refugees in southwest Ethiopia

Y Gelaw, A Abateneh


Background: Low vision and blindness are recognized as one of the major  public health problems worldwide, especially in developing countries. The prevalence and cause of blindness and low vision vary from region to region, among different age and population groups in a country or  geographical region. The objective of this study is thus to determine the causes of blindness and ocular morbidity among refugees in Southwest Ethiopia.

Methods: A cross-sectional clinic based study was conducted on 1,054 refugees in Southwest Ethiopia. A basic anterior and posterior segment examination was done by ophthalmologists with Magnifying Loupe 2.5X and Direct Ophthalmoscope. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 16.0.

Results: The most common causes of ocular morbidity identified were trachoma 547(21.2%), cataract 501(19.4%), refractive error 353(13.7%), conjunctivitis 240(9.3%), glaucoma 130(5.1%) and climatic droplet keratopathy 112(4.4%). The overall prevalence of blindness was 26.2% and the prevalence of childhood blindness was 0.7%. The prevalence was higher among females (16.9%) than males (9.3%) and age groups 60 years and above (15.9%) than other age groups (10.3%) (P<0.05). The overall prevalence of low vision was 25.8% and the prevalence of low vision in pediatric age group was 0.9%. The leading causes of blindness were cataract 112(40.6%), trachomatous corneal opacity 58(21.0%) and glaucoma 49(17.8%). The commonest cause of low vision was cataract 102(37.6%) followed by trachomatous corneal opacity 49(18.1%) and refractive error 35(12.9%).

Conclusions: There is a very high burden of blinding eye diseases among refugees. Integrated multidisciplinary intervention strategies for the  prevention and control of blindness and low vision in the study settings should be initiated.

Key words: Blindness, low vision, ocular morbidity, refugees, Ethiopia
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