A Sightsavers project funded by USAID is helping children with visual impairments in four regions of Mali so they don’t miss out on their education.
Project staff visited local communities, talked to families and ran radio adverts to find children who were unable to attend school because of visual impairments. To understand the children’s needs, staff tested their sight then recommended treatment or equipment that would help them learn. As part of the project, 122 children were given glasses and 202 will be monitored by their teachers, while children with albinism were taught how to protect themselves from the sun and were given sunscreen and protective clothes.
Ariane Marie, who wears glasses, is one of the students the project has helped. She says: “Before I got my glasses, I did not see well in class, I wrote very badly in my notebook. I had a lot of difficulties learning. Now I write correctly, I see everything in class. I can learn without the support of other people. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher to help all children who wear glasses.” More from Mali
The Bajenou Gox programme, a community-based project in Senegal that helps mothers and children access healthcare, now offers eye health support alongside its other initiatives.
Women in Senegal are often excluded from healthcare because of lower levels of education and language barriers, so Bajenou Gox works exclusively with women to provide health information and help them and their children to get help. It initially supported expectant mothers during pregnancy and helped them care for their babies, and over the years has expanded to include areas such as malaria, tuberculosis and now eye health.
In total, 90 workers in three regions have been trained to carry out eye screenings and provide information. So far, 557 women have been screened for age-related refractive error, and others have been diagnosed with trachoma. The project has been funded by Irish Aid. More from Senegal
A programme that aims to reduce avoidable blindness by checking children’s eyesight in school is also educating their teachers about eye health. In the southern Kenema district, at least two teachers from each school, one male and one female, are being trained to identify children who have eye conditions.
As part of the project, some teachers have found they need glasses themselves. Some believe that wearing glasses, regardless of whether they have been prescribed, can damage their eyes, so the project has provided an opportunity to educate them about the importance of wearing glasses. They can then pass on this knowledge to their students.
So far 66 teachers in 33 primary schools have been trained, in Kenema and neighbouring Kono and Kailahun districts. The project has been funded by Irish Aid. More from Sierra Leone
Bernadette Zamlaouda, a 37-year-old mother of two from Yagoua in northern Cameroon, joined the Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities platform in 2016. Since then, she has been finding people with disabilities and making sure they’re included in the election process by helping them register to vote.
Bernadette has a physical disability as a result of a childhood illness, which affected her early schooling. But after completing her secondary education, her teachers encouraged her not to let her disability hold her back, and in 2008 she founded a local association for women with disabilities.
“It’s so important people with disabilities are able to vote, because they are human beings like others,” she explains. “They have the right to vote. If a person with disabilities becomes a candidate and makes it through, they will defend the interest of other people with disabilities and this will give them courage to come and join.”
In 2017, Bernadette found 1,100 people with disabilities in the region that were eligible to vote. The project has been funded by Irish Aid. More from Cameroon