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 Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid