16 March 2017

Botswana: Standard Chartered Bank Tackles Childhood Blindness

Good Hope — Chief Health Officer, in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Mr Setshwano Mokgweetsinyana says childhood blindness is a major public concern that calls for collaboration from different stakeholders to curtail its prevalence.

Delivering a keynote address on behalf of the Minister of Health and Wellness, Ms Dorcas Makgato, during the handing over ceremony of spectacles sponsored by Standard Chartered bank to students in Goodhope Sub district, Mr Mokgweetsinyana lauded the bank for their noble and humanitarian action of restoring sight to children.

He said Standard Chartered sponsored the campaign of "Seeing is believing" the initiative he explained was done in collaboration with his ministry, Ministry of Basic Education, University of Pennsylvania and Botswana Optometrist Association.

Mr Mokgweetsinyana however, said visual impairment and blindness were leading but largely preventable causes of disability worldwide.

He noted that World Health Organization (WHO) survey in 2009 indicated that over one million children worldwide were blind, while 420 000 of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa and the numbers were likely to increase if effective interventions were not put in place.

Mr Mokgweetsinyana implored all stakeholders to join hands with the government so that the visually impaired children do not face challenges in their development that would deny them opportunity to attend school and earning potential.

He said the childhood survey conducted in 2009 found the prevalence of blindness to be 0.5 per cent among children aged 0-15 years and the main cause was uncorrected refractive error followed by congenital cataract.

Mr Mokgweetsinyana said in order to address the problem the Ministry of Health and Wellness through different partnerships established the vision Centre at Sekgoma Memorial hospital which provided free spectacles' to children aged 15 years and below.

In addition to their efforts in combating the situation, Mr Mokweetsinyan said optometrists were recruited in the public sector for identification and management of children with refractive errors.

He said ophthalmic nurses were trained on children vision services for early identification of childhood blindness, management and referral of children with refractive errors.

Moreover, primary school teachers and health Education Assistants were also trained as case finders for early identification and referral of children with eye problems.

For her part, Head of Corporate Affairs at Standard Chartered, Ms Itumeleng Ramsden said their financial support started way back for the past 15 years.

She said four years ago, the bank also sponsored "Pono letlotlo" campaign at the of tune P4 000 000, the campaign that was initiated to prevent blindness caused by diabetes.

Ms Ramsden further said with the new pilot eye examination named, Portal Eye Examination Kit(PEEK) vision campaign they injected P1 000 000 to assist children who do not have access to eye health services.

She said they sponsored 848 identified students with refractive errors and bought them spectacles at a cost of P203 089.00.

Ms Ramsden said the bank is committed to continue with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at all life circumstances to give the citizens dignified lives.

When giving the overview of PEEK, Wellness Coordinator from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ms Alice Lehasa said the ministry had made a great deal of impact in trying to reduce the prevalence of avoidable blindness through its national prevention of blindness programme.

She said the ministry has adopted Vision 2020 global initiative by WHO to reduce avoidable blindness by the year 2020.

Ms Lehasa said the ministry developed a 2015-2019 strategy aligned with WHO vision to reduce the blindness statistics.

Nonetheless, she said school screening programme was identified as the first step towards reducing visual impairment prevalence.

She mentioned that 12 877 children were screened in 49 schools, 2065 needed referrals while 848 required refractive services, 93 children required medication and 63 required ophthalmic services which was being offered at Goodhope Clinic and Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, Regent of Barolong, Kgosi Botiki Motshegare lauded all the stakeholders for their efforts to build strong bonds with the government for the brighter future of the children.

He implored people to adopt healthy lifestyles to avoid contracting certain avoidable diseases.

For his part, South Region Director of Education, Mr Agronews Maseko, hailed all those who made the impact in the students' lives by giving them spectacles.

He said the spectacles would empower them to concentrate on their academics without any impediments.



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