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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs