Free eye examinations launched for older people in Uganda

June 2018
An elderly woman in Uganda has her eyes examined to check for trachoma.

A new initiative to test older people for eye disease and sight loss has been launched with the help of the Ugandan government.

People aged over 65 can now have a free eye examination while collecting their pension. If needed, they can be referred for surgery or given medication to treat conditions such as trachoma or cataracts.

The initiative, launched at the end of May, is a collaboration between international organisations including Sightsavers, development partners and the Ugandan government’s Expanding Social Protection (ESP) programme. It targets the over 65s as this age group has been identified as most at risk of eye problems.

The service is provided through The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, and Sightsavers’ Coordinated Approach to Community Health (CATCH) programme, funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Sightsavers Uganda Country Director Johnson Ngorok said: “This collaboration has provided a unique opportunity to reach the section of the Ugandan population most at risk of eye problems. With support from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and UK aid, thousands of people have accessed surgery and had their lives changed.”

The Ugandan government’s ESP programme has been running since 2010 through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, with support from UK Aid and Irish Aid. Under the scheme, the government aims to reduce poverty-related to ageing by providing a social pension, called the senior citizens grant, to people aged 65 and over (or 60 and over in the Karamoja region, Uganda’s poorest area).

Head of the ESP programme Stephen Kasaija said: “We recognise that various forms of disability impede access to and full benefit from programmes such as the senior citizens grant. Our target population is highly vulnerable to the effects of disability. That is why the ESP programme is exploring partnerships and linking our beneficiaries to services that address disability challenges. In this way we not only improve their wellbeing and welfare, we also improve access and the impacts of our grants.”

Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said: “Thanks to the commitment and collaborative efforts of partners like the governments of Uganda and the UK, and for the innovation shown through programmes like CATCH, we can help enable anyone – young or old – to access quality eye care and ensure diseases like trachoma that cause unnecessary blindness become a thing of the past.”

A group of smiling schoolboys in Kasuleta, a small rural village in Uganda.

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