Monday, 13 April 2009

Eye Care Outreach and Blindness Prevention in the Khartoum Area Squatter Settlements

The Khartoum office is busy churning out reports these days and another which I read this week filled me with particular satisfaction. What can you say about a project which prevents blindness, restores sight, enables people to learn to read and helps unite people in service to one another?

Up to three million people now live in the settlements for displaced persons which surround the increasingly modern city of Khartoum. The majority have no access to education, health care or secure livelihood.

In 2002 Together for Sudan set up an Eye Care Outreach Project led by Sudanese ophthalmologist Dr. Nabila Radi. Targeting children, women and the elderly, that effort has now benefitted well over 25,000 people through eye examinations, eye glasses, medications and eye surgeries. The Eye Care Outreach is a particularly satisfactory sort of charity work because its benefits are so quickly obvious. After all, if you can’t see you are unlikely to learn to read and glasses can usually fix that problem. Or put another way, if you have ever misplaced your glasses (as I do regularly) or have suffered from an eye infection or other condition which threatens or impeded your sight --- well, we all get the point.

This latest Eye Care Project report reminded me that TfS has learned many lessons from our work in this area. Among the most important are that eye disease and eye injury are two of the greatest threats to health and livelihood in the settlements for the displaced, that community cooperation is crucial to the outreach and that provision of eye care information to communities is vital.

A simple pair of glasses can provide a mother with the ability to sew and thus to support her children. Eye glasses can restore meaning to life. I recall a recent outreach when an old man, practically weeping with gratitude, thought to thank me for the gift of a used pair of reading glasses. I rejoice that this project does so much good and earns so much goodwill for Together for Sudan.

Lillian Craig-Harris

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