I’m yet to visit Kenya but I have heard it described as a colourful contradiction – heaving, chaotic Nairobi and Maasai warriors protecting their cattle from marauding lions.
Kenya has the potential to become one of Africa’s success stories. With its diversified economy, geographical position, growing population and booming communications and private sector, the future is bright for its almost 45 million people.
However to be born a child suffering from cataract in Kenya, the future is considerably less optimistic.
There are currently 17,000 children living in Kenya who are needlessly blind or vision impaired. When allocating resources for managing cataract, children are often neglected and forgotten. The support that is available for eye health is predominantly from the private sector, making these services inaccessible for the most disadvantaged in the community.
It has been recognised by “Vision 2020 – the Right to Sight”1 that childhood blindness needs to be a global priority in their campaign to end avoidable blindness. There are several economic, social and psychological reasons for this. Blind children face a lifetime of darkness, which is further affected by living in the third world. This disability hinders their opportunities for education, employment and earning potential, plus the extra financial strain placed on the family unit is substantial.
It has also been proven that blind children have a lower life expectancy than their sighted counterparts. An estimated 500,000 children become blind each year, but in developing countries up to 60% are thought to die within a year of becoming blind. Furthermore, early onset blindness adversely affects psychomotor, social, and emotional development.
And the irony is that in the majority of cases, this is all avoidable.
Thankfully the Kenyan government has acknowledged the significant gap in the delivery of eye health services to children in their country, and through The National Strategic plan for Eye Health and Blindness Prevention (2012-2018) they hope to address this discrepancy by increasing access to high quality child eye health. The Fred Hollows Foundation is joining this effort with their Child Eye Health Program, taking a comprehensive and sustainable approach to upgrading facilities, providing training and equipment, and implementing a school eye health to educate children and the community about prevention and treatment options for vision impairment and avoidable blindness. This program aims to reach 1 million children aged 0 -15 years, improving their quality of life and educational performance.
As Fred Hollows famously said, “you have to impart skills and technology and help them help themselves”, and this is exactly what The Foundation is doing in Kenya.
As children with cataract often do not seek or follow through with treatment (for a range of factors), the training of Community Health Workers is vital in the success of the Child Eye Health Program. Through barazas (community meetings), health clubs in schools, and actively identifying children in the community with eye problems, the Community Health Workers are a vital link between the patient and the health system.
Paediatric outreach camps are also an important element in accessibility of eye health. Remote areas face huge disadvantage, particularly for children. In fact, 80% of the Kenyan population live in rural areas where access to health services is extremely limited due to finite resources and financial allocation for eye health. Outreach camps will provide vital screenings, surgery and postoperative care to many children who have previously been unable to access eye health services.
So as part of the Walk to a Better World campaign we will be raising funds to help The Fred Hollows Foundation facilitate two Paediatric eye camps in Kenya. Our aim is to raise at least $15,000 to provide:
- screening for 1400 children
- treatment of other eye diseases for roughly 300 children
- surgical interventions for 30 children
- purchase of an Autorefractor – this vital piece of equipment measures the level of refractive error within the eye and is critical during paediatric surgeries.
“I believe the basic attribute of mankind is to look after each other”
Professor Fred Hollows
By funding this project we can help The Fred Hollows Foundation to remove one more hurdle to help some of the poorest people in the world break the poverty cycle and help ensure these kids can have a bright future.
Donations can be made as follows:
- click the “Donate Now” button to the right
- a tax deductible receipt will be issued to you automatically
Direct Debit to the following account:
Name: Opportunity To Do Ltd
Account: 1280 1475
Reference: FHF Eye Camps
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a tax deductible receipt for your donation.
For more information on The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work in Kenya please visit their website