Eyeglasses now within reach in Kenya
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A patient undergoes a refraction test at Narok Eye Unit to determine her prescription.

In countries like Canada, your nearest eye doctor is usually just a few blocks away, and scheduling an eye exam is as easy as picking up the phone or clicking a few buttons online. If an eye exam revealed you needed a pair of prescription lenses to correct your vision, you could typically order eyeglasses on the spot, or you could simply walk into a nearby optical shop.

Unfortunately, in countries like Kenya, your mission to access eye care services would be much less convenient, if not impossible. You might not ever own a pair of eyeglasses, even if you desperately need them to read, work or drive.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people in the world are visually impaired. Uncorrected refractive error – which can easily be corrected with a pair of prescription eyeglasses! – accounts for 42 percent of all visual impairment. Sadly, low vision remains a public health concern in many developing countries, due to the lack of availability and affordability of eyeglasses.

In Kenya, the problem is compounded by a shortage of eye care personnel, unreliable and unaffordable equipment for refractive assessment, and a lack of refractive services in government health facilities. Although most ophthalmic workers in Kenya are trained in refraction, they don’t have optical facilities; they end up providing prescriptions to patients who then have to search elsewhere for their eyeglasses. Typically, a patient’s only option is to order from a private optician, where eyeglasses are incredibly expensive and, in many cases, unattainable.

To overcome these barriers, we’ve developed an innovative optical services model that’s helping patients see clearly again in as little as one week! Through Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing Program, we’re implementing this unique model in Kenya’s Narok County.

First, patients undergo a refraction test at Narok Eye Unit to determine their prescription. Next, they select the type of eyeglass frames they can afford. Patients pay for the eyeglasses through a mobile money transfer to our partners at the Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB), while ophthalmic workers submit prescriptions to KSB electronically.

Patients who cannot afford to pay receive their eyeglasses free of charge; this expense is subsidized by revenue from paying customers. Excess revenue is also used to purchase eye drops and other supplies for the eye unit, ensuring the sustainability of its services.

After refraction, a patient chooses her eyeglass frames. Her order, payment and prescription are then sent electronically to our partner, the Kenya Society for the Blind, for preparation. In one week, she’ll be able to pick up her brand new eyeglasses at Narok Eye Unit!

Within one week of receiving a patient’s order, KSB prepares the custom eyeglasses and sends them to Narok Eye Unit where the patient eagerly picks them up. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, children, women and men leave the eye unit with big smiles on their faces, in awe of the newly-focused world around them!

The process that we’ve developed in partnership with Seeing is Believing and KSB is a great example of how, with collaboration and innovation, we can deliver quality eye care services to all. Our goal is for this successful model to be replicated in other regions where there’s an ongoing need for eye care services.

You can help us give the gift of sight to even more people in need. Please donate to our eyeglasses program today. Thank you for your support!