Sightsavers has launched a three-year integrated deworming and eye health programme in schools in Liberia, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education.
The programme, funded by the Dubai Cares foundation, will improve the lives of more than 76,000 children through vision screening and deworming treatment.
Known as SHIP (school health integrated programming), the programme will support the training of 2400 teachers to screen and distribute medication. 33 district education officers will also be qualified to train teachers, and four optometric technicians trained to support the country’s limited number of eye health specialists.
Teachers will carry out the screening, and refer children found to have vision problems to a mobile team of optometric technicians who will travel to the schools to examine the children and provide glasses on the spot at no cost to the children and their families.
Liberia is one of the world’s least developed countries. A mean average of 4.4 years of schooling is received per person and with an average of just three years of schooling, girls fare worse than boys. In addition, an estimated 21% of children do not complete primary education. The country also has a high prevalence of soil transmitted helminth infections that constitute a serious public health problem, and the largest cause of visual impairment among school-age children is uncorrected refractive error. The SHIP programme aims to address these issues.
The programme is based on a 2016 pilot project held in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal, which led to more than 57,000 children being screened for eye problems. The pilot, conducted with the Partnership for Child Development and supported by the World Bank and Global Partnership for Education, demonstrated how schools could be used to deliver integrated health interventions and raise awareness, engagement and capacity towards comprehensive school health. Sightsavers aims to apply the knowledge and tools developed through the pilot to the Liberia programme, to show how it can be scaled up effectively.