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Sightsavers from the field

July updates: highlights from around the world

A young boy has his sight restored in Nigeria, plus news from Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania and Ghana.

July 2020
someone pours water on someone else's hands, while a group of people sit and watch.

Nigeria

An eye clinic supported by Sightsavers as part of the Child Eye Health programme has reopened and is performing surgeries for children who have developed cataracts due to trauma.

After nine-year-old Destiny George was injured with a hockey stick, his right eye went red and would stream constantly. After a couple of weeks his eye turned white, and his mother Lovina became very concerned.

A doctor examined Destiny and told Lovina her son would have to be operated on – a procedure that costs approximately NGN50,000 (about £102). Knowing she didn’t have that amount of money, she took him to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, a facility that partners with Sightsavers to provide refractive services, for a second opinion. It was confirmed that her son required surgery and would lose his sight if he didn’t have the operation.

She once again became extremely worried how much the operation would cost and how she would pay for it, but to her surprise, the doctor told her that the surgery would be free of charge.

“I was doubtful when I was told that my son’s surgery was going to be done for free, so I waited to see what will happen on the day that he was to be operated on,” Lovina said.

But the day arrived and Destiny had his surgery at the National Eye Centre, with the staff taking precautions around COVID-19, and his sight has been restored. “Honestly I am grateful,” Lovina added. “For my son to get this type of support means he has a destiny, just like his name. He can go back to school when it resumes without anything stopping him.”

The project, which is funded by People’s Postcode Lottery, has developed accident prevention messages to be aired on radio, highlighting the need for safe environments and avoiding the use of potentially harmful objects while playing, particularly as children are spending more time at home while schools are closed. Sightsavers has also provided the eye clinic with personal protective equipment to minimise the spread of COVID-19. More from Nigeria

Kenya

In July, our team in Kenya released their comprehensive review of the current state of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the country.

Better access to clean water, latrines and personal hygiene limits the spread of preventable diseases. Twenty-five million people in Kenya have at least one NTD; meanwhile, 41 per cent of the population have no access to water and 71 per cent have no access to basic sanitation facilities. A large part of tackling NTDs is through promotion of latrine usage, hand washing and safe water, meaning that many NTDs could be eliminated through WASH work.

The review backs up our work urging everyone in both sectors to combine efforts in eliminating NTDs and improving WASH. It shows the structure of both sectors, interventions carried out, key data in both areas and areas where WASH interventions will have the most impact on helping to eliminate NTDs.

Key recommendations include combining data from the two sectors to support decision making and forming county- and country-level forums to find opportunities for collaboration.

Our team has now presented the review to key people in the NTDs and WASH sectors and is calling for others to use the document (summarised here) to guide their work. More from Kenya

A boy washes his face at a well.
A boy washes his face at a well in Turkana, Kenya. Good hygiene is key to reducing the spread of trachoma and other NTDs.

Tanzania

One of the three Sightsavers-funded eye clinics in Tanzania, which focuses on easy access and timely services to the most disadvantaged women and children, has been completed and is offering services.

The Gairo Eye Clinic, which is situated in the Gairo health centre in the Morogoro region, is equipped to provide comprehensive eye care to more than 193,000 residents of the Gairo district. The clinic also receives patients from neighbouring districts like Kilindi, Kongwa and Kiteto. Before the clinic opened, some patients would have needed to travel more than 150km to access eye care services.

As well as coordinating construction of the clinic, Sightsavers, in collaboration with Morogoro region and Gairo district authorities, supported training for the assistant medical officer in ophthalmology and one ophthalmic assistant, who are now providing services at the clinic. Sightsavers also provided the clinic with ophthalmic equipment.

The local authority has set aside a total of TZS1,800,000 for this year for eye care services at the clinic, including the purchase of a slit lamp table. The district also plans to train an optometrist to provide refractive services, ensuring the clinic can continue running once the programme comes to an end. More from Tanzania

Pakistan

The Sightsavers Pakistan country office has been making sure COVID-19 guidance is accessible for people with disabilities.

It has worked with national non-governmental organisation Social & Economic Development Associates (SEDA) and Pakistan Association of Blind (PAB) to adapt the World Health Organisation’s considerations for people with disabilities during COVID-19 into braille. These braille copies are now being distributed to visually impaired people through the PAB.

Sightsavers Pakistan has also worked with the national disability network (CBID) to develop some locally approved guidelines for people with disabilities in COVID-19 in the form of short videos. The four short videos will give guidance to people with visual, hearing, physical and neurological disabilities and their care givers. Despite a key member of the production team having to go into quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus, the video is finished and is being distributed. More from Pakistan

A still from a video explaining how to clean a wheelchair.

Ghana

In districts along the border with Togo, Sightsavers has been supporting the training of local volunteers in the fight against COVID-19 in Ghana.

Thanks to the UK aid-funded Ascend West and Central Africa programme, health workers are being trained in contact tracing, infection prevention control, risk communication, integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) and enhanced surveillance for COVID-19. A total of 1,000 participants are due to be trained. Participants included nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians, school health coordinators and doctors’ assistants.

People who attended the training were showed how to safely put on and remove PPE, how to prepare a chlorine solution to sterlise surgical instruments, hand washing, and how to prevent and control infections. More from Ghana

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