Belize is on the eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in Central America whose official language is English, though Belizean Creole (Kriol) and Spanish are also commonly spoken. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west byGuatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is a beautiful country, with Larry Waight expanding in the Huffington Post on the 10 reasons to visit Belize.
The burden of visual impairment in Latin America and the Caribbean is not distributed uniformly; as per PAHO, in many countries it is estimated that for every 1 million population, 5,000 are blind while 20,000 are visually impaired. Of these, at least two thirds are attributable to treatable conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and other diseases.
With a total population of 332,000 (ref), Belize only has three practicing ophthalmologists, all of them in the private sector. There is no retina specialist in the country, where diabetes and diabetic retinopathy is on the increase. Usually, the prevalence of diabetes is about 10% (which appears to be low by Belize’s standards by all appearances, though there is no study to prove it), which would mean that about 33,000 Belizeans suffer from diabetes. Even though generally only about 10% of diabetic patients are likely to develop the blinding complications of diabetic retinopathy, it is difficult to figure out which one of these patients would develop diabetic retinopathy. Most patients have no access to regular healthcare, or do not go to a doctor for their diabetes control on a regular basis. Also, most patients are overweight, with bad eating habits and lack of exercise, which increases the chances of a bad outcome.
Similarly, other retinal conditions go undiagnosed or untreated. Simple manageable issues like a retinal detachment are not diagnosed or treated in time due to lack of retinal expertise. Equally, premature babies, who need regular retinal exams for diagnosis and treatment (if required) for retinopathy of prematurity, do not have access to a retinal specialist.
The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, or the BCVI, a not-for-profit organization, has been providing affordable eye care to poor people in Belize for more than thirty years through their five offices all over the country – the National Eye Clinic in Belize City, Belmopan in Cayo District; Dangriga in Stann Creek; Orange Walk Town in Orange Walk District and Punta Gorda in Toledo District. In addition, regular clinics are held in Corozal Town, Corozal District, as well as Benque Viejo del Carmen and San Ignacio in the Cayo District. Eye exams with BCVI are free of charge and the spectacles they supply are heavily discounted.
We are partnering with BCVI to help change the current scenario. We will do it in the following ways:
- Bring in retinal specialists on regular visits to see patients and operate
- Work with our industry partners to evaluate the possibility of retinal equipment being available at BCVI clinic for retinal specialists
- Discuss with other partners to study the possibility of short-term relocations by retinal specialists who have just finished their retinal fellowship in Belize
- Identify a Belize trainee ophthalmologist and get him/her to train in retinal disease management
If you wish to help us in our objectives, please support us. Your help will help us provide Belize with the solutions they need.