Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

20 November 2012

East Africa: Bank Launches Child Eye Health Project

STANDARD Chartered Bank, through its "Seeing is Believing Project," will on Tuesday launch the East Africa Child Eye Health Project that will directly benefit four million children through screening, treatment for basic eye problems, eye surgeries and spectacles.

According to a statement, Standard Chartered Bank, along with two consortiums led by the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, will invest a total of 6.25 million US dollars (about 10bn/-) over a four-year period for the project accomplishment.

The project to be launched at Mnazi Mmoja Grounds aims to tackle the challenge of poor child eye health in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The bank, along with seven international NGOs, the ministries of health and education and institutions of higher learning and research in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will implement the project.

The parents are encouraged to bring their children as the launch will include free check of eye problems for children aged eight years and below. "Parents are encouraged to attend the free health service and test the eyes of their children for any problems. Curing a child of blindness is, on average, equivalent to curing 10 adults with cataract surgeries, so getting your child screened early is hugely important," stated the statement.

In East Africa alone, an estimated 8,500 to 10,000 children live with blindness - a disability that has serious effects on the educational and employment opportunities of children. Worldwide, poor eye health among children is a major challenge. In fact, over 12 million children live with vision impairment, while other 1.4 million children suffer from blindness. Statistics show that less than 10 per cent of blind children attend school. Sadly, at least 40 per cent of blindness in children is preventable.

However access to eye health services has remained a challenge in these regions. The East Africa, Child Eye Health Project aims to address these challenges, from building awareness and education of child eye health among families and communities, to building referral networks to identify and correctly diagnose children for problems (including within schools).

The project will ensure the clinical infrastructure and human resources are in place to treat children with blindness and vision impairment and ensuring that children who cannot be treated are given support and educational opportunities when they re-enter the community. Blindness and vision impairment is caused by a variety of factors including glaucoma, refractive error, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy.

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