News / Africa

New Initiative Set to Improve Eye Care in Sierra Leone

Pupils attend a koranic school in the town of Small Sefoda in eastern Sierra Leone, April 22, 2012.
Pupils attend a koranic school in the town of Small Sefoda in eastern Sierra Leone, April 22, 2012.
The people of the West African nation Sierra Leone are about to have improvements to their eye care thanks to a grant from the European Commission in the sum of about $900,000 (700,000 euros).  The new initiative will be led by a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Sightsavers which plans to increase the number of eye care professionals in the country and services for people.  The program will specifically target women, children and the elderly.

Freetown.  It's loud, frantic,crowded and can be challenging just to walk around. Imagine being blind and having that same challenge.

Mohamed Jalloh who is completely blind in both eyes says getting back into normal society after going blind was traumatic. 

He lost sight in his left eye after someone hit him.  He lost sight in his right eye because of a retina detachment.

"It was very difficult, my transition was very difficult, I had to stay in house, for almost five years, I spent most of time in my room, the first day I went into street it was like learning to walk again," he said.

He had few resources to help him and says he also faced challenges trying to find work.

"The level of discrimination is very high in this country, to get a job is not easy at all, even when I came from college a second time - I could not get a job," he said.

But with a new initiative in place through Sightsavers and the European Commission things may improve for those who are completely blind or suffer from low vision.

Community-based rehabilitation centers

Part of this initiative will create more rehabilitation centers in communities across the country so people can have a smoother transition back into society.

It's a step in the right direction, says ophthalmologist Matthew Vandy.

"Those who are blind and cannot be cured will be trained how to take care of themselves, how to do farming or other vocational jobs that will help them live as a normal person," he explained.

Vandy is one of just five ophthalmologists in the country.  He says he welcomes the new initiative because it will also offer an increase in training eye care professionals.  The program will include training for at least three more ophthalmologists and eight cataract surgeons.

Many challenges

Vandy says Sierra Leone still suffers from several eye diseases.  And the need for increased eye healthcare is important.

"The number one problem in Sierra Leone with elderly people is cataracts, second is glaucoma, that is when there's pressure in the eye and it damages nerves that connect the eye to the brain. So because of that people go blind and it is irreversible," he said.

He says the good news is that the rate for river blindness, which used to be the second leading cause of eye disease in Sierra Leone, has gone down.

Sightsavers has contributed to that development by distributing medication to people across the country.

Nancy Smart, the country director for Sightsavers, says this initiative with the European Commission was a long time in the making.

"We've actually sent a proposal three times, this is the third time, fortunately we've won the beat, and we are very happy as this is first eye health program being sponsored by European Commission in Sierra Leone," she said.

Targeting children

Smart says children will be one of the main targets.  There are plans to go to primary schools and provide free eye screenings.

She adds that the program also aims to help those with disabilities.  Sightsavers is partnering with several disability groups in Sierra Leone to make sure their clients will have access to services.

Smart realizes all these goals are ambitious but is confident.

"I think this is exciting but of course a challenging moment - exciting that we have received the funds and we want to see what we've slated be implemented, and of course go towards the prevention of blindness.  And challenging because it's a big task," she said.

The program is set to take place over the next four years.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid