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January 18, 1995

African Refugee Disasters Increase the Risk of Blindness

Author Affiliations

San Francisco, Calif
Stouffville, Ontario

JAMA. 1995;273(3):186. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520270020019

To the Editor.  —Reports of the crisis in Rwanda make it plain that African refugee disasters are accompanied by excessive mortality.1 We present evidence that risk of blindness is dramatically increased as well.In 1987, 2 years after the Ethiopian famine, we performed eye studies in the refugee camps of the eastern Sudan. In addition to random cluster surveys for blindness, we directed particular attention to corneal scars, as a proxy for the uncommon event of blindness. If a person had a corneal scar, it was reasonable to assume that the person had sustained a potentially blinding illness, such as serious eye infection, xerophthalmia, or trauma. We were interested to see if there was evidence that the catastrophic shearing of the social fabric caused by the refugee disaster could be related to the prevalence or incidence of corneal scar.We compared children orphaned by the refugee crisis with children

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