No fewer than 1,685 school children in some communities in Ikorodu, Lagos State, have benefited from a “Free Eye Check, Diagnosis, Treatment and Eye Glasses Outreach’’ by the RESTORE Foundation For Child Sight, an NGO.
The Executive Director of the Foundation, Dr Halima Alimi, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Sunday that the aim of the outreach was to prevent eye problems in children. This, according to her, is because poor vision impairs learning ability, and may ultimately cause blindness.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Restore Foundation undertakes action and advocacy for improving eye health in children. Alimi said: “Our mission is to bring about maximum academic attainment for children through optimising their vision, because with good vision, children can excel academically.
“Unfortunately, many children don’t perform well academically, just because they are hampered by poor vision. Hence, this programme is to test their eyes to know their condition and to detect any developing problem for quick treatment. Those who need eye drops or glasses or surgery are provided with medications by the foundation, absolutely free, because we know they can’t afford the cost. This is our own way of helping underprivileged children break out of the cycle of poverty,’’ she said.
Alimi also said that the roughly two- year-old foundation holds a quarterly outreach. She said that the first was held in Ebute-Metta East and West communities, including Makoko. She emphasised that the riverine areas were the main target of the project because the population are underprivileged.
The eye specialist said: “My team, which comprises general ophthalmologists, pediatric ophthalmologists and others, have so far tested about 1,685 children. “We have given out over 466 bottles of eye drops, detected 97 children who need glasses, and eight others who need sight-restoring cataract surgery within the three days of the planned four-day outreach.’’
She added that out of the target 45 schools with an estimated 2,500 pupils, 307schools, including Jojegs School, Salem Brainy School, Carter Bridge School and others benefitted from the outreach. Alimi explained that the foundation solely depended on donations from friends and members of the public for financial support and sponsorship.
She added that asides the Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), an NGO, which financed cataract surgeries for four pupils who were diagnosed, neither government nor corporate bodies had contributed any support to the fin any form. She said other partners only provided technical support. She appealed for more financial support to enable the foundation make more impact.
“We reach out to the general public, to people who are willing to donate to a good cause. So we have been dependent on a few donations we have received. Like I said, we are a young foundation, and we have been functioning for about two years now; so, we’re hoping to gain some attention. We can partner with both national and international brands. Organisations which are interested in the underprivileged communities are already blazing a trail. We are the only ones doing it as far as I know. So, of course the more support we get, the more impact we can make. We hold our outreach programmes every quarter, but if we had enough funds, we can have about six to eight times in a year,’’ she said.
Alimi said that apart from community outreaches, the foundation also organises programmes in orphanages , whereby they visit orphanage homes and administer eye care and treatment to the children there. She added that last year, the foundation had an outreach for albinos, who, due to their condition, are most vulnerable to eye problems.
“Last year we had an outreach for Albinos because, again we understand that that’s a disadvantaged group of people born with eye problems. However, we have been able to change that narrative by testing about 130 of them, treating and providing them with glasses and they are all doing much better in schools,’’ she said.
According to the eye care specialist, the foundation will extend its outreach programmes to the hearing impaired and mentally challenged schools and other underprivileged communities for children there to benefit from the outreach. Alimi said that the commonest eye challenges detected included refractive error, which is responsible for long or short sightedness, allergies, then cataract and glaucoma.
She noted that every eye problem found in adults could be found in children, however, unlike adults, children were most vulnerable because their brain is still undergoing development. “In any community, especially in the developing world, you would find a lot of allergies suffered by a lot of children.
“We are in the rainy season when allergies are very common. So, children with allergies are reacting to dust, particles, sand etc. About 95 per cent of the eye drops we have given out are mostly for allergies. We have managed to help and educate them on how to manage the allergies,’’ Alimi said. She advised school teachers to inculcate eye health education in the children and prevent them from playing with sharp pointed objects such as pencils or sticks in order to prevent eye problems.