Inclusive Eye Health:

CBM Funded Eye Complex Opens in Uganda

The picture shows a significant moment during the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the Mengo Eye Complex. Three people are involved in the ceremony: on the left the Archbishop of Uganda, wearing a purple clerical shirt and cassock, on the right the Deputy Speaker of Parliament in a suit and next to him a doctor in a white lab coat. They are outside, next to a light, peach-coloured wall. The Archbishop and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament are unveiling the plaque with the emblems and the text indicating the commissioning of the complex, which was financed by the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and inaugurated by prominent Ugandan church and government representatives. A small crowd, partially visible, claps and celebrates this milestone in the background.

The Deputy Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, the Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Samuel Kaziimba, the Minister of State for Health, Margaret Mugisha, the Ugandan CBM Country Director Jackie Kwesiga and the Managing Director of CBM Italy, Massimo Maggio, at the opening of the Mengo Hospital Eye Complex.

The Mengo Hospital Eye Complex in Uganda is set to become a leading regional centre for ophthalmology, where a range of eye diseases will be treated using advanced technologies.

Mengo Hospital has officially opened its new Eye Complex, a state-of-the-art facility largely funded by Christian Blind Mission CBM. The former eye clinic has been expanded from 1,335 square metres to a new complex of approx. 4,280 square metres with four modern operating theatres. The new Mengo Hospital Eye Complex was financed with approximately 5 million euros (5.3 million USD), primarily by CBM.

This has created a leading regional centre for ophthalmology that can treat 560,000 patients a year and prevent blindness throughout eastern and southern Africa.

The new Eye Complex has specialist clinics for a range of eye diseases, including retina, glaucoma, paediatric and strabismus ophthalmology, orbita and oculoplastics and corneal diseases.

Notably, the facility also includes a cornea bank to improve the availability and affordability of corneal transplants, ensuring access to treatment for Corneal blindness which ranks second to cataracts in Uganda.

During the opening ceremony, Dr Lisbon Aliraki the head of the eye department at Mengo Hospital pointed out the critical needs that the new complex will meet. "We have introduced over 20 new procedures as well as the number of cataract surgeries, our expansion dramatically improves our capacity to provide care.”

The CBM partnership with Mengo also supports subsidised treatments for patients who cannot afford the costs especially for children.

The hospital will also offer residency training for ophthalmologists and other eye specialists including research, exchange programmes with different universities globally.

The opening was attended by the Archbishop of Uganda, Rev Stephen Kaziimba, the deputy speaker of parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, the CEO of CBM Uganda Jackie Kwesiga and CBM Italy Mr. Massimo Maggio.

“I am delighted to witness the unveiling of this high-quality facility, which has been generously funded by CBM. However, to truly maximise its impact, we need medical specialists appointed by the government to work here. This support will not only help reduce operational costs but also make services more affordable for our patients,” said the Archbishop of Uganda, Rev Stephen Kaziimba.

Decades of Partnership

Jackie Kwesiga, Country Director of CBM Uganda, highlights the partnership with Mengo Hospital as evidence of CBM’s three decades of commitment to improving healthcare in Uganda.

“Our vision is an inclusive world where all persons with disabilities can realise their human rights and achieve their full potential. This inspires everything we do, from community work and advocacy to medical and social inclusion initiatives. Beyond the physical facility, our mission is fuelled by collaboration, compassion, and courage — a story of people who reject blindness as a limitation and strive tirelessly to create a brighter future,” says Ms. Kwesiga.

Since the partnership began in 1990, Mengo Hospital's eye unit has grown from seeing just 5 patients per day to 300 outpatients per day and 5,000 surgeries per year.

In collaboration with countrywide implementing partners such as Ruharo Mission Hospital-Mbarara, St Joseph's Hospital, Kitgum, Benedictine Eye Hospital Tororo, the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital, Katalemwa Cheshire Home, CEFORD, and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology, CBM has set itself the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness and improving access to eye care and prevent disabilities.

Mr. Massimo Maggio, CEO of CBM Italy, also spoke about the broader impact of the complex: “This project demonstrates the power of collaboration towards a common goal. CBM and Mengo have worked tirelessly to raise standards of healthcare in underserved communities and improve eye care from diagnosis to rehabilitation. We are deeply grateful to our donors whose generosity has made this possible. Together, we will continue our work until every corner of the world is reached.”

Although the new 3-storey complex has the space and technology to offer comprehensive services, Dr Aliraki says the hospital faces a shortage of ophthalmologists and eye specialists to fully utilise the facility yet.

“To prevent blindness in Uganda, we need more than facilities, we need more trained manpower. We are calling on the government to second doctors to work with us and ensure that services are affordable and accessible to all.”

The country needs to perform at least 400,000 cataract surgeries per year to reduce the rate of blindness. At present, there is only enough capacity for 12,000 cataract operations per year.

CBM supports the training of eye health specialists to build a sustainable workforce through scholarships and other training opportunities. This includes, Mbarara University of science and technology, staff exchanges with the Department of Ophthalmology at Saarland University Hospital in Germany and management training at Aravind Eye Hospital in India.

The image shows a group of dignitaries and medical staff inside a brightly decorated pediatric room at the Mengo Eye Complex. The room features playful wall decorations with cartoon characters, making it child-friendly. The group includes the Archbishop of Uganda, dressed in purple clerical attire, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, both of whom are central figures. They are surrounded by other participants including doctors and a foreign dignitary. The atmosphere is cheerful, highlighted by the colorful furniture and educational toys in the foreground, designed to engage children during their visits. The setting demonstrates the complex's dedication to creating a welcoming environment for its young patients.

The Pediatric room at the Mengo Hospital Eye Complex.


The Role of Government and Future Directions

The Minister of State for Health, Hon. Margret Muhanga, recognised the government's role in this success: “The government's support through tax exemptions for medical equipment as well as on the construction has been crucial. This project aligns with our mission to improve life in its fullness, as reflected in our longstanding collaboration with religious institutions and development partners such as CBM.”

By improving access to quality eye care, Mengo Hospital is not only improving people's health but also contributing to greater education and economic opportunities in Africa.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, emphasised that the government must act to support such facilities: “We must prioritise our health budget to drive socio-economic change through better disease prevention and treatment. Although Mengo as a private not-for-profit hospital receives some primary healthcare funds, supporting the major regional hospitals like Mengo with specialist doctors will enable them to provide more affordable services.”