Focusspec introduction Kenya
When I first came to Kenya, two years ago, I immediately fell in love with the country and its people. It has a beautiful nature and of course the wildlife is incredible. Here in the highlands the views are spectacular. The people are very nice and their hospitality has no limits.
Eye care neglected
Even if they hardly have money for food you are very welcome to their houses and they will share everything they have with you. During my trips to Rwanda and Kenya I noticed that healthcare in these African countries is focused on prevention of malaria and HIV/aids. Eye care is completely neglected and that is hard to understand in a country where there are so many eye problems. Since I was studying orthoptics and therefore specialized in refractive errors of children, squints and double vision, I wanted to do something about it. I went to a local eye clinic in a district hospital and met an ophthalmologist. She told me about her challenges and soon I realized that I wanted to help her. She was very enthusiastic and motivated me to write a project plan for students to work in the eye clinic and especially helping with their outreach programs. This is a program for screening children in primary schools.
District Medical Health Officer appreciates Focusspec
It’s my third time being in Kenya and this time I got back with the glasses of Focus on Vision. The ophthalmologist and even the District Medical Health Officer were very happy with this innovative spec. The DMHO was myopic and therefore our first client.
Screening children class 5 to 8
When we started the screening program at primary schools, we found out that the focusspec is too big for children under the age of ten. And also the system of turning the wheel until you see clearly is difficult to explain to young children. Sometimes even the elderly have problems with that, of course the language barrier is also a cause of that. In these rural areas not everybody speaks English and my Swahili isn’t that good. The older children fit the focusspec perfect, so we only screened children of class 5 to 8. Some of them start to become myopic and will get more myopic when they grow up. With these glasses they can adjust themselves if they need more strength during the next few years.
Improving the quality of life with vision
Yesterday we also went to Ampath, where all the HIV/aids patients are treated. Ampath stands for academic model providing access to healthcare. It is a NGO from USA and basically focused on HIV/aids. We discussed the eye problems of their patients. They have a lot of infections and encephalitis, but because of poverty they also have low vision because patients cannot effort glasses. They have to pay a lot of money for HIV medications and other health care. Their priorities are not focused on good vision. But it is important for them to contribute to society. The quality of life will improve if they have glasses and better vision. Therefore we will start screening HIV/aids patients at Ampath next week.
Starting up optometry education
Kenya is a developing country. Although it develops slow, new buildings are made in the hospital. And they recently started an optometry education at the University of Masinde Muliro in West-Kenya. Orthoptics is still not known, so we keep up the good work here for now! In my next blog I will tell you more about our adventures in Kenya.
Stephanie van Stigt Thans