According to WHO’s report in 2011, there are 285 million people who suffer from visual impairment, and every 5 seconds a person goes blind. 80% of these visual impairments are avoidable, And 90% of those who are visually impaired live in developing countries, where they are not medically treated due to financial reasons, lack of medical facilities, ignorance, etc. Personal safety as well as chronic poverty are linked to these issues. Uganda has a scarcity of trained eye care professionals available to provide accessible care and this directly contributes to disadvantaged lives, affecting a loss of potential to the overall economy. This is particularly evident in optometry services which impact on an adult’s capacity to earn and a child’s capacity to learn. Optometry has the capacity to change the eye care landscape of Uganda. This profession is very young in Uganda, emerging over the last three years since the opening of the optometry program at Makerere University in 2013, funded by DFAT and Optometry Giving Sight. There are currently optometry students enrolled in year one and two of the optometry program at Makerere University. The first graduates will emerge in 2018. Unfortunately, for many children in Uganda it is not as simple as heading to the optometrist and getting a prescription for glasses. A simple screening and treatment can cost more than 100 dollars, which is unaffordable for many in one of the poorest nations in the world.
Within our eye-care and health program we have several activities that are also related to the health of the families and the community that we are working with. We pay the medical bills for children whose situation is life treating, and whose parents are not able to pay for it. Most of the time illnesses relate to Malaria. Under this program pillar we also set up the Eye Health Program. We bring several times a year children and their families to the local hospitals and opticians to get their eye sight checked and get medication and or glasses where needed. Our main sponsor for our Eye Program comes from Walzer Opticians from Isny, Germany, and his non-profit organization 'Wir Helfen Sehen'. Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can perform better at schoolwork and play. Early identification of a child’s vision problem can be crucial because children often are more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early. Many people here are shortsighted or cannot see on a distance, and it is absolutely essential for the education of our children that they are able to see well the board and their notebook at school! Together with our 22STARS team and local opticians Walzer tested the eye side of all the kids in Daystar and St Matia, two schools where many our kids go to. Afterwards, 70 people were sent to a Ugandan eye doctor where they received further treatment, 50 reading glasses were handed out to the elderly, and 20 protection glasses were given to the people working in the store quarry.
This shows the importance of the “Eye Program” of 22STARS. For a country where the average monthly income earned is $40, glasses of more than $100 is simply unaffordable. Glasses are not obtained due to this financial reason, but also due to ignorance, and lack of professional manpower, affecting educational and economic activities. Our future plan is to look for collaborations with Ugandan organizations who could provide us with accessible eye care and affordable glasses. Our plan is to raise additional funds to check the eyes of more children and families living in the community where 22STARS operates. To give people an opportunity to get an eye operation and treatment where necessary and to get glasses. We want to perform eye exams with a professional optometrist, and provide prescription glasses for patients who do not have access to proper medical services and eye surgery. We also want to promote blindness prevention and eye health programs in the local communities.