Liberia: Lions Club Commits to Long-Term Eye Health Program in Buchanan

Minister Jallah and entourage tour the Liberia government hospital eye center rehabilitated by LIONS clubs of Liberia

The Lions Clubs Commissioner on Hunger, serving District 403A2, which comprises Liberia, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Lion Cllr. Dickson N. Doe, has assured Liberians of long-term support toward eye treatment sustainability in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

LION Cllr. Doe, a Liberian, who also served as grant administrator, of a grant proposal approved and received from LIONS Clubs International (LCI), through its arm, the LIONS Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), in the tune of US$400,705.00, led an expansion of a comprehensive eye care services in Buchanan, Grand Bassa, for Grand Bassa, Rivercess and Margibi Counties.

However, according to Cllr. Doe, "the Buchanan Eye Care Center: Based on a proposal from the Lions Clubs of Liberia, the SightFirst Advisory Committee of Lions Club International met in Oakbrook, Illinois, Chicago on August 10, 2017, and approved the proposal and awarded to Lions Clubs of Liberia the grant of US$400,705 to support the expansion of comprehensive eye care services in Grand Bassa, Rivercess and Margibi Counties over a period of two years."

He also disclosed that the most important component of a project is its financial sustainability. Therefore, funding for the Center will be generated by the program itself, for long-term sustainability.

"Experience has shown that reliance on donor support would be a threat to sustainability, since the project would cease, if donor supports were withdrawn. The project is therefore designed to sustain itself for a period of five (5) years and will thereafter be turned over to the Government of Liberia, via the Ministry of Health, to the Grand Bassa Health Team. May I emphasize, that this Center is for the people of Liberia."

He said, "the overall objective for LIONS is to ensure that the costs of eye care services are affordable and available to the ordinary Liberians. We have been assured that the blind and the underprivileged, who may not afford the full-cost of eye care, will be charged on a sliding scale, so that no patient will be denied access to the services, due to his/her inability to pay. We thank the County Health Team, the offices of the Superintendent and the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucasus, for working with us to ensure the realization of this Project. We are very grateful to the Ministry of Health family, for the wonderful working relationship. We say a big thank you to Mr. Robert Dolo, the Chief Executive Officer of the New Sight Eye Center (the implementing Partner of the Project), and the entire family of the Center for such splendid display of professionalism and commitment to the job."

The event was marked by the celebrations of World Sight Day, held under the theme: "Vision First." World Sight Day is an annual event which is held on the second Thursday of October each year. It came to be observed as a result of LIONS Clubs International in 2000 but didn't get its international acclaim until 2005. It is observed globally and is meant to elevate the conversation about the conditions of blindness and visually impairment.

During the week of celebrations, the Center screened and tested 410 patients out of which 17 surgeries were performed; 15 cataract and 2 pterygiums. Some were given eyeglasses and some medication. At the program, some of the patients on who surgeries were conducted regained their sight and were full of praises for the Center.

LIONS Clubs International is the World's largest service Club, serving humanity all over the World. LIONS have been serving since its founding in 1917. Our clubs are at places where individuals join together to give their valuable time and effort to improving their communities, and the world. LIONS have a strong commitment to community diabetes, Blindness, visual impairment, hearing- and cancer-screening projects. The efforts of LIONS started in Liberia in 1972, but due to the advent of the civil war, activities were disrupted until 2002, when the only Lions Club at the time, was re-chartered. Since that time, the activities of LIONS have since been steadily growing in Liberia, with more clubs impacting their communities.

In 2004, the Greater Monrovia Lions Club, the oldest Club, sponsored surgery on 27 blind indigents, most of whom suffered from river blindness at the Phebe Hospital, Gbarnga, Bong County; in 2005, the same exercise was replicated on 32 blind and visually impaired indigent; most of whom were transported from Grand Bassa County to the Seven Days Adventist Clinic on 12th Street Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia. You can imagine the joy on the faces of those people who thought that they will never be able to see again.

In 2014, upon hearing the news of the outbreak of the dastardly wicked and deadly disease called Ebola in Liberia, Lions Club International thru the Lions Clubs of Liberia donated two (2) 40' containers of medical equipment, supplies, and clothing along with an ambulance donated to the James Davies Memorial Hospital in Paynesville and Clinics in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County. The ambulance was donated to the ELWA Hospital in ELWA, Paynesville.

In order to empower the visually impaired and blind, the Greater Monrovia Lions Club established a modern computer laboratory on the campus of the African Methodist Episcopal University on Camp Johnson Road where the blind students are learning modern technology. It has since enrolled about 200 students. It will surprise you to know that they are being tutored by a blind facilitator. Today, we have success stories; some of the graduates are now gainfully employed, fetching for themselves. One (1) is enrolled at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, while another is employed with the National Legislature. One of them has travelled to the United States of America for advanced studies.

In 2016, the Lions Clubs of Liberia was awarded a grant in the amount of $267,315.00 by Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Sight First Program, to purchase much needed state of the art equipment to upgrade the standard of professional eye care at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia. The Center is now catering to the blind and the visually impaired at very minimum fees in Montserrado County and its environs.

In an effort to have qualified Liberian ophthalmologists to man Eye Care Centers, the Lions Clubs are financing the Post graduate program to train Doctors in Ophthalmology for a period of five (5) years. Working with the faculty of the Liberian college of physicians& surgeons (LCPS), the Project is valued at US$486,000. The first five (5) Liberian Ophthalmologists are now in India under training.

On June 11, 2018, some sections of the Liberia Government Hospital were turned over to the Lions for implementation of the Project by the Minister of Health. Sooner had we taken over to commence renovation /expansion when the Staff of the Hospital staged demonstration against the use of the sections of the Hospital. A new round of discussions ensued.

Finally, on December 2, 2018, the people of the County resolved to relocate the Project to the ArcelorMittal Clinic in the Concession Area, an annex of the Government Hospital. Through the New Sight Eye Center, the implementing partner, the Center is now equipped with state-of-the-art surgical equipment and technology. The LIONS Club have also procured a Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep and trained four Ophthalmic nurses, 2 optometry technicians to commence training soon, all Liberians who are Government employees. Also, 25 community volunteers are to be trained soon, to enhance operations. We are awaiting the Government to identify the two government-employed cataract surgeons who will be sent abroad for training for the running of the Center. The Center will also run an outreach program in the three counties. We remain committed to serving humanity in excellence.

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