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Kenya is one of the largest countries in Africa. Factors such as poor education, low life expectancy and minimum wages have contributed to the high rate of unemployment, poverty and the lack of basic healthcare.
In Kenya, an estimated 945,000 people are blind or visually impaired. Cataract is the leading cause of avoidable blindness. Right now, there is a critical backlog of 100,000 people waiting for sight-restoring surgery.
Trachoma, a painful infection caused by poverty and poor sanitation, ranks second. It is considered a serious public health concern in the country.
Kenya’s rural population face many barriers to good eye health, including lack of access to health care. Almost three-quarters of all Kenyan people live in remote and regional areas with very poor access to eye health services, yet the majority of eye health professionals are concentrated in major cities.
A lack of awareness about eye health is also a major challenge. Many Kenyan people in remote and regional areas use traditional medicine and healers, rather than seeking treatment from a trained medical professional. Furthermore, poverty is critically linked to blindness. Malnutrition, inadequate health and education services, poor water and a lack of sanitation can contribute to eye disease.
The Foundation’s focus is on delivering improvements in eye health services in rural areas where most people live and where access to health services is extremely limited.
The Foundation holds outreach and community eye screening camps, supports surgeries and treatments for cataract, trachoma and other eye disease. We partner with local training institutions to increase the number of eye health workers and surgeons in the country. We support infrastructure development and provide vital equipment.
The Foundation’s sight-restoring work in Kenya is showing excellent progress.
With your support, The Fred Hollows Foundation achieved the following results between January and March 2019:
For children like Samuel, cataract can have devastating consequences. In a few short years, nine-year-old Samuel’s vision had completely deteriorated. With cataract in both eyes, he was on the path to becoming permanently blind.
Samuel is a twin, and his brother John has never left his side. Their father, Kimani, describes the brothers' special bond: “I can’t always be there for Samuel, but when they’re at school, John is. He takes his brother’s book and writes properly, because he knows his brother cannot see." Kimani winces as he recalls his son's struggle to keep up with the other children, often tripping and falling while running around in the yard. The deep scar on his cheek is a permanent reminder of how serious injuries can be for a child with blindness.
In Kenya alone, an estimated 945,000 people are blind or visually impaired. Of these, 8,000 children like Samuel have avoidable blindness.
So much of a child’s physical and intellectual development depends on their ability to see. They learn through reading and observing, and develop strength and coordination through play.
If blindness is left untreated for too long, a child’s brain can lose the ability to process visual signals, leaving them permanently blind. The sooner we can get to these children, the better the outcome. In remote villages in Kenya, like the one where Samuel lives, accessing eye health care and treatment is particularly difficult. Distance and the costs of travel simply make it impossible for many families.
Thankfully, Samuel was able to receive life-changing eye surgery through The Foundation’s partner, Sabatia Eye Hospital. The delicate operation was performed by Dr Jean Claude, one of just 8 paediatric ophthalmologists in the country trained to perform surgery on children. Samuel’s mother was delighted when she found out her son could see again, saying “I am so happy I cannot even explain it. I never thought he would ever see.”
Since the surgery, Samuel has changed so much. His mother proudly exclaimed “He’s telling his brother that he’ll perform even better than him. I would love for him to become a doctor to help others with the same problem that he had.”
The Foundation will continue to scale up its sight-restoring work in Kenya in 2019.
Interested donors should contact The Fred Hollows Foundation.