Seydou is an expert in social affairs management and community and social development, training he acquired both in his native Mali and in France.

Sensitive and committed, he has worked with various international organisations in health promotion. And, for almost 13 years, he has been a reference point for the Eyes of the world project in the Mopti region. Together with Albert Coulibaly (coordinator of Eyes of Mali), he directs and implements the awareness-raising and training activities, coordinates and organises the ophthalmological care campaigns and is in contact with the project’s partners and collaborating organisations to ensure that the activities are carried out correctly.

During his recent stay in Barcelona, where he travelled to participate in the evaluation and reflection sessions held annually by the Foundation, he presented the extraordinary work carried out by the Mali team, with success and efficiency, despite the limited resources and the difficulty of the Malian context.

A father of five children, Seydou enjoys spending his free time with his family, travelling and playing sports.

Why did you decide to work for Eyes of the world in Mali? What attracted you to the project?

I was motivated by several factors: firstly, I was attracted by the aim, mission, vision and principles of the Eyes of the world Foundation; secondly, I already had six years of experience in the field of primary eye health in a community setting; and thirdly, I was familiar with the language, way of life and socio-cultural aspects of the people living in the area where the programme operates.

What I liked most about the programme was the transparent management and the involvement of stakeholders, with a sustainable vision. Eyes of the world will continue to support the programme through diploma training, continuing education, training on the gender approach and access to eye care, raising awareness among the population, donations of appropriate equipment and materials, construction and renovation of ophthalmological/optical infrastructures and provision of drinking water, taking into account the impact of climate change on the social environment. The Eyes of the world Foundation listens to the community and takes into account their expressed needs in relation to its mission to fight blindness caused by preventable and curable eye diseases. 

What is the situation of preventable blindness in the Mopti region, and why is it so important to advance universal access to eye health in this territory?

We do not have a recent publication about avoidable blindness in the Mopti region, but it is very worrying. Avoidable blindness remains a public health problem. During the free consultation campaigns organised by the Foundation, eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, refractive errors, endemic lymbo-conjunctivitis of the tropics (LCET) and trachomatous trichiasis are the most detected.

Furthermore, we observed that in rural areas a large number of cataracts are detected at every free consultation, but a small number of people come for cataract surgery when there is a charge. The argument put forward by most cataract sufferers is the lack of financial resources for treatment.

Yes, it is very important to improve universal access to eye care in this region because, on the one hand, ten years of security crisis have had a negative impact on the income of the local population, who often do not even have enough to eat daily. On the other hand, social security mainly covers salaried workers. In particular, the compulsory health insurance, which depends on the national health insurance fund, does not cover corrective lenses. In the eight health districts, there are only three ophthalmologists for a population of 2,958,872 inhabitants, of whom 1,495,559 are women. We also need to support them with adequate resources.

Because if all the actors in the ophthalmology sector do not pool their humanitarian medical actions, the field of ophthalmology will not be able to reach its goal. 

How would you describe the situation of women with eye problems? Why do they find it more difficult to receive care? What is being done and what can be done to remove the barriers they face?

Currently, with the security crisis, the number of vulnerable women has increased considerably: women left alone in the household because of the armed conflict, low income, widows, visually impaired.  

In general, it should be noted that women are the most affected by eye diseases, and it is vital to focus on this aspect, as women are the backbone of the family and the community at large. Geographical accessibility and lack of financial resources remain the main barriers to treatment of curable eye diseases.  Late access to the health centre is more prevalent among women and children.

 What can be done to address this challenge?
  • Strengthen women’s self-empowerment by giving them the opportunity to engage in income-generating activities;
  • Literacy training for illiterate women;
  • Training in entrepreneurship and fund management;
  • Lobbying heads of households to encourage women to go freely to health facilities if necessary;
  • Increasing channels of communication about access to eye health care. 
What is the most common life situation among people with severe visual impairment in the region? Which of the cases that we have been able to deal with at the Foundation have had the greatest impact on you?

The most frequent situation is usually the late referral of severely visually impaired people to health centres with qualified ophthalmological staff. There have been several cases of intumescent cataracts, primary open-angle glaucoma in the terminal phase, children suffering from congenital eye diseases or because of trauma, diabetic retinopathy and retinoblastoma. 

The cases that strike me the most are mainly students with cataracts, trachomatous trichiasis and refractive errors who come to tell us how they have resumed the activities they had abandoned for a long time because of these conditions. And they do so with a smile on their faces and words of thanks to the team.

Traditional medicine still plays a very important role in the villages, how is your relationship with healers and herbalists? Do you see any progress in their collaboration? 

Today, in areas that are not covered by facilitators, teachers and community liaisons trained in primary eye care, the first thing women do when they have eye problems is to go to a tradithérapeute or herbalist. This fact aroused the Eyes of Mali team’s curiosity to establish a relationship with the Federation of Associations of Tradithérapeutes Bandiagara (FATTB) and Herbalists. FATTB has more than 800 members in the Bandiagara, Bankass and Koro health districts. The FATTB are recognised by the CRMT (Centre for Research in Traditional Medicine). The CRMT depends on the National Institute of Public Health Research (INRSP) of Mali.

Since the end of 2021, the Eyes of the world Foundation, in partnership with the regional health department of Mopti and the reference health centres of Bandiagara, Bankass and Koro, has funded the training of 30 traditional/herbal therapists, including five women, in access to ophthalmological care in the health centres and the Sominé Dolo Hospital in Mopti. During the alignment workshops, these traditional healers committed themselves to supporting the activities of the Eyes of Mali programme in the Mopti region. They contribute greatly to raising awareness and referring patients suffering from eye diseases in the village to ophthalmology centres and units. The 30 tradithérapeutes/herborists in the three districts regularly submit their monthly activity reports to the ophthalmology medical assistants. They benefit from lump-sum communication credits to inform the ophthalmologists of their referrals. We also hold a quarterly meeting at the headquarters of the Reference Health Centre in each health district to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this collaboration. The relationship is good because there have been many positive developments since 2022. 

To what extent do you think the environmental impact reduction activities (such as waste disposal or solar panels) that are being implemented have an impact on the eye health of the population?

We already believe that the environmental impact is being reduced: in the framework of biomedical waste management, the Eyes of Mali programme has built two approved Montfort type improved incinerators in the districts of Djenné and Mopti, where waste is now disposed of without toxic fumes or pollutants, and much less heat that affects vision. Between 2022 and 2023, the programme has also trained several health workers (doctors, nurses and hygienists) from the districts of Bandiagara, Bankass, Djenné, Mopti and Koro, as well as from the Sominé Dolo Hospital in Mopti, in the management of biomedical waste, from production to disposal, with the provision of waste sorting containers. 

The installation of solar panels on the buildings of the Reference Health Centre, as in Youwarou, and the supply of drinking water, such as solar-powered pumps, will help to reduce the black fumes given off by diesel or petrol generators, which often cause eye allergies, with consequent tearing and itching, especially in young children.

What would you highlight about the way Eyes of the world works, and what sets it apart from other organisations with programmes in Mali? 

The unwavering support of the community for the Eyes of Mali programme enhances the way Eyes of the world works. What sets the Foundation apart from other programmes in Mali is its credibility and good governance in the proper management of funds, with the full involvement of partners from the planning stage to the implementation of the project.

What is the Foundation’s most imminent challenge in Mopti and how will it benefit the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals? 

The Foundation’s most imminent challenge is to train and equip qualified ophthalmological staff to eliminate cataracts and provide quality care for children under 18 years of age suffering from refractive errors in the regions of Bandiagara, Douentza and Mopti. Secondly, to support the process of eliminating trachoma by providing clean water to the community and free surgery for cases of trachomatous trichiasis. Finally, to make women economically independent so that they can afford eye care without constraints. This will make an important contribution to Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is to “enable all people to enjoy a life of good health and promote well-being for all at all ages”.