In 2016, together with Associació Mirades and Asociación Gesta-África, we concluded two expeditions to schools in Senegal in May and November to detect and correct vision problems in school-aged Senegalese boys and girls.
Both expeditions consisted of two phases. One, coordinated by Gesta-África, in which cataract operations were carried out by local specialists.
And another, coordinated by Mirades, in which eye examinations were conducted in schools in the country’s most remote and under-served zones, which the health ministry had previously selected in the ‘National fight against preventable blindness’ programme. In cases where prescription glasses were needed, they will be provided completely free of charge, and this is where our Foundation goes into action, financing this part of the project.
Why Senegal? The main reason is that health care in Senegal is private, so people without economic resources have no access to it. We talked to a great many people without access to health care.
Another important reason is that in Senegal there are specialists trained to remove cataracts, but the figure of optometrist does not exist. All prescription glasses are produced privately and are very expensive, and this activity takes place mainly in the capital city of Dakar.
Lastly, because of something that can be avoided and which currently is a problem: 80% of cases of blindness are preventable.
The leading cause of this is cataracts, but the second one is the existence of uncorrected refractive defects. The ‘National Fight Against Preventable Blindness’ programme is promoted worldwide in various developing countries. It facilitates access to the work zones by providing lodging and freeing up local hospital staff so they can travel to the campaigns. It is the organisation that coordinates access hospitals in the districts where the ophthalmological campaigns are to be conducted and which coordinates examinations and determines which schools are to be visited. We addressed the first of our commitments with the first expedition in May of this year. Our destination, Bakel, a remote and rural zone with few resources some 700 kilometres from Dakar.
Our goal was to visit eight schools with a total of 400 boys and girls. For seven magnificent days, we devoted ourselves exclusively to examining the children one by one. The best part was that they welcomed us with open arms. We detected 60 cases where prescription glasses were needed. Project objective: Detect and correct vision problems in school-aged Senegalese boys and girls Participants: To implement this project, we joined forces with two major institutions with extensive experience in Senegal and in the optical sector.
Associació Mirades is a non-profit organisation specialising in optometry, and its objective is to collaborate in the fight against preventable blindness caused by uncorrected refractive defects. It was founded in 2013. Asociación Gesta-África has been working on health care projects in Senegal for ten years. In the past five years, it has specialised in ophthalmology projects involving surgical operations.
Associació Mirades and Gesta-Africa have been carrying out these expeditions for three years now, and they invited us to be part of the last expedition in 2015, to Rufisque, where 150 cases needing prescription glasses were detected. We worked with part of your great team to deliver the glasses on this latest expedition. Many thanks for letting us be part of this great team.