Difficult terrain presents barriers to eye health

Written by Admin, published on September 1, 2015 Donate Today
Even sturdy 4×4 vehicles, like this Operation Eyesight vehicle at a washed out road in Kenya’s Narok District, may only last a few years in these road conditions!

High mountains, thick forests and endless savannah. They may sound like settings for the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but in the countries where we work, this sort of terrain can actually stop people from accessing eye care and having their sight restored!

Why? The most obvious problem is distance. Many people in India, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia live many kilometres from the nearest eye care facility. In many of these regions, infrastructure such as roads may not exist.

Even if there are roads, it’s sometimes beyond the ability of a blind person, who is often very young or old, to travel that distance by themselves. It can be difficult for a caretaker to take time away from work to travel with them, especially when such a trip could take several days. Other hazards, such as the mountains of India’s Jammu district or washed out bridges in Zambia’s Sinazongwe district, further complicate matters.

Senior program manager Anup Zimba as he climbs some of Jammu’s difficult terrain. We don’t rest until the last person in the last village is reached!

Operation Eyesight and other international eye care organizations used to deal with inaccessibility by holding eye camps, which brought eye health care personnel to remote areas to tackle existing problems. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good long-term solution, because new eye problems like cataracts inevitably developed, and there were still no permanent eye health care facilities for patients to access.

Now, we help people in remote areas by training local community eye health workers to diagnose problems, refer patients to the proper eye care facility, and arrange transport for those who need it. These community workers work closely with our partner hospitals to ensure that patients can have their eyesight restored efficiently, in quality facilities, regardless their ability to pay.

Road washouts, like this one in the Choma District of Zambia, are all too common thanks to unpredictable weather. To someone who’s blind, they can present an impassable obstacle.

This system is enabling us to build permanent eye health services, something we couldn’t do without the generous support of our donors. So while our donors may not literally be moving mountains, we know you’re doing the next best thing. Thank you for your loyal support!