World Sight Day
CBM Kenya in collaboration with PCEA Kikuyu Hospital and several stakeholders drawn from the public and private sector, gathered together to commemorate the World Sight day on Thursday, 13th October, 2016, at the PCEA Kikuyu Hospital. World Sight Day (WSD) is an international day of awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. This year’s theme is “Stronger together”, recognising all the different groups which make a difference in eye care.
To mark this important event in our calendar, CBM Kenya hosted the Miracles Week Campaign. This annual campaign aims to create awareness on preventable blindness and raise money to offer cataract surgeries. These surgical initiative targets children and adults from families unable to raise funds for treatment of congenital and acquired cataracts.
As a build up to the ‘Miracles Week’, CBM collaborated with various likeminded organizations such as Makini Group of Schools, Brainewave Communications, Aircab Travel Services, Bonte Media, Nairobi Chapel Langata, Ivex enterprises, Hope FM among others to come up with activities to help in creating awareness around preventable blindness and fundraising which were the core campaign objectives. Some of the exciting activities planned for the campaign included Swimming Gala, Church engagements, media interviews and social media engagements.
Miracle of sight and restoration of dreams
Caroline Juma, a key guest at the event was eager to share the impact of cataracts on her 5 year old daughter Nicole. “Growing up my daughter was struggling to see, I checked her eyes and notices a white spot, however I dint know what it was. I took her to the hospital and told she was suffering from cataracts. The doctor told me that she required surgery which would cost KES. 100,000. I knew I could not afford the high cost of surgery, I dint disclose to anyone what my child was suffering from. October last year, I heard an announcement in the radio that CBM in partnership with Kikuyu Hospital were running a Miracles week campaign which was offering free surgeries, I dint believe it given the cost I was told eelier but I decided to visit the hospital to verify the information. True to their word, we were admitted and Nicole was offered free cataract surgeries. Her sight has now been restored and she is happily adapting to her improved vision.”
With the realization of the impact of cataracts on a child’s development milestones, Caroline urged all stakeholders to join hands in order to break the cycle of blindness in children.
Breaking the cycle
According to Amos Mutiga, the Executive Director of CBM Kenya, Children in many communities and nations are considered the hope for the future – symbols of exponential potential with big dreams and aspirations. Unfortunately, childhood blindness appears to slow them down and limits the amount of opportunities available for self-actualization.
He emphasized on importance of breaking the cycle of poverty when dealing with Eye Health and specifically, cataract. “Disability and poverty are interlinked. Extreme poverty causes disability through many factors including a lack of access to adequate nutrition, preventative and curative health care,” he said. On one hand, disability contributes to and deepens poverty therefore a child or a person with disability and their family are less likely to have access to rehabilitation, education, skills training and employment opportunities – opportunities which could otherwise reduce poverty.
The national/state agenda on eye health and visual impairment
Speaking during the same event, Mr. Joseph Shiroko, CBM Kenya Board Member, emphasised on a continued partnership across all sectors to eliminate avoidable blindness. “As we gather here today to commemorate World Sight Day, it is critical for all stakeholders represented, to take stock of the gains, gaps and opportunities in regard to the elimination of avoidable blindness in the country. We should all remember that the fight against avoidable blindness is not an event but a process, a process we should all participate in, in order to build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.”
In his key note address, the chief guest Mr. Fred Haga, the Assistant Senior Assistant Director in charge of special needs education at the Kenyan Ministry of Education, gave a moving testimonial on how he lost his sight as a teenager. “I was only 16 years old when I lost my sight, I was forced to drop out of school and stayed home for 7 years searching for an institution willing to let me finish my secondary school education”
He noted that persons with visual disability encounter many forms of exclusion in society, mostly as a result of negative assumptions of incapacity, dependency and differences influenced by ignorance. This exclusion deprives persons with disabilities especially in low income households their right to education which in turn undermines their ability to enjoy their full right of citizenship, to find gainful employment and take up valued roles in society.