Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eye Care In Our "Healthy Villages"

We have begun our village eye-care program with Sight Savers International (SSI), a UK-based non-profit which works to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people in the developing world.

The program has a number of stages: Firstly, a representative from SSI (Abdul, who is himself blind and therefore a role model of what he teaches) shall choose a member of each village – likely a Village Health Team member – to be trained as the village eye specialist. Secondly, we shall transport those five individuals to the office, two days in a row, for SSI to conduct all-day trainings on how to recognize and provide a rough diagnosis for eye problems common in the village, as well as how to prevent such illnesses or problems. Thirdly, those now-trained eye specialists will spend a few weeks back home, composing a list of villagers with eye-problems. Fourthly, we shall provide transport money for each of those villagers with eye problems to visit the closest health center that can provide them with a final diagnosis of their condition.

Fifthly, and importantly, Abdul will return to each village to counsel the diagnosed villagers, encouraging the ones with repairable problems to get fixed (sometimes villagers are too scared to actually get the repair surgery, even when free), and teaching the ones with non-repairable problems how to best live ‘positively’ with reduced eye-sight or blindness – techniques for getting around, how to use a cane, etc. Lastly, we shall provide transportation money for each repairable villager to go to the nearest health center which can repair or treat his or her eye problem. Sight-Savers International actually pays for all the surgeries and treatment – and almost all the surgeries will be done either by Doctor Othieno, an ophthalmologist from Iganga, or by other doctors who were trained by Doctor Othieno.

We are currently in stage one of the process – we have held two village meetings with Abdul, in Bulumwaki and in Butongole, so that the Village Health Teams, the political leaders and other village leaders might choose the villager who is to be trained as eye specialist. In Bulumwaki, they chose Faith Namungere, the Village Health Team chair and also a nurse at a nearby clinic.

I shall keep this blog updated on our progress !

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