Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Ray of hope for visually impaired children

Ten million primary school students suffer from vision impairment. Reem Leila reports on a new initiative to deal with the problem

 

Ray of hope for visually impaired children
Ray of hope for visually impaired children

On 26 January President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi launched the initiative Nour Al-Haya (Light of Life) to combat the causes of blindness and poor vision among school children.

The initiative targets 10 million primary education students, and two million of the most needy. The plan will provide one million corrective glasses in addition to carrying out 250,000 eye surgeries and launching a medical survey of children’s sight. This is in addition to raising people’s awareness regarding sight and visual problems so that Egypt could be free of blindness and severe visual impairment that can be avoided.

The Long Live Egypt Fund has contributed to the initiative.

Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said during the ceremony that the president honoured donors of Tahya Misr Fund as a way to call for the continuity of efforts and to support the principles of solidarity and partnership among all Egyptians. “The president’s initiative will be funded by Tahya Misr and implemented in all of Egypt’s governorates,” Radi said.

Those responsible for the initiative will be cooperating with several non-profit organisations to help them in the screening process. Among these NGOs is the Baseera organisation which has been working since 2004 in empowering and enabling visually impaired individuals, especially young students. According to Doaa Mabrouk, co-founder and manager of Baseera, the president’s initiative “is like a dream come true for those working in the field”.

Mabrouk pointed to statistics that 10-12 per cent of primary school students suffer from weak vision and need eyeglasses that their parents cannot afford. Moreover, four per cent of the population suffer poor vision. “More than 50 per cent of those who suffer poor vision can be saved from complete blindness by early intervention. We are focusing on young students because they are unaware of their imparity. They do not know they need eyeglasses,” Mabrouk said, adding most of the time parents and teachers are unaware that the child is suffering from a vision problem.

Mabrouk recalled that a primary school teacher in one Upper Egypt village told her about a student who the teacher considered lazy and careless because of his weak participation in class but discovered that his problem was weak vision. This totally changed after he wore eyeglasses.

According to Mabrouk, Baseera is holding several campaigns to raise people’s awareness about the problem of vision imparity because sometimes children suffer while their parents believe they are fine. “We conduct several training programmes for teachers and parents to teach them how to discover that the child is suffering from a sight problem,” Mabrouk said.

Mabrouk stated that Baseera will cooperate with the president’s initiative. “We can help in diagnosing cases and maybe treat them. We will also assist them in screening campaigns in various districts all over Egypt.”

Opthalmologist Amr Azab said there are various reasons for low vision, among them, inter-family marriages which help in transmitting genetic eye diseases.

“We need to understand that whatever efforts are exerted to save one child is a great success,” he said. To that end, Azab said he and his colleagues are out to find children with impairments.

Comprehensive screening for school children is the main method to achieve the goal, Mabrouk said. “We screen about 1,000 primary students a day during school days. Last year we screened 60,000 cases, provided 3,500 eyeglasses for needy students and conducted 80 surgical operations,” said Mabrouk who added there are still 10,000 cases who still need operations. “We are working on these cases,” he said.

Last year, Baseera tested about 20,000 school children in Beni Sweif, 10,000 in Aswan and 10,000 in Suez. “We will continue with our screening as well as awareness campaigns until we end this problem as in the case with Virus C,” Mabrouk added.

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