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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid