Sierra Leone, in West Africa, is an extremely poor country with only 3 qualified optometrists for a population of 7 million people.


Despite being rich in natural resources, Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries. Its recent history of an 11-year Civil War, from 1991 to 2002, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014/2015 have both had a devastating effect on life in Sierra Leone, particularly in terms of the population’s health, economy and physical infrastructure.


Our work in focus

Vision Aid Overseas' eye care programme in Sierra Leone is focused on developing affordable eye care services in the country's Eastern and Northern Provinces.

Child Eye Health

With thanks to The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): for 'School Eye Health in Sierra Leone', reaching 44,000 children and 988 teachers at 159 primary schools, within two years between 2019-2021. 

Goal: Demonstrate and develop guidelines for a school-based eye health programme that provide annual vision screening, eyeglasses, referral and treatment for children and teachers in Kenema district.

Objectives:

  1. Strengthen the primary eye care and refractive error services for children and teachers at the Kenema Hospital Vision Centre. 
  2. Establish regular screening, referral and treatment services in primary schools supported by eye health promotion and education. 
  3. Strengthen the Vision Centre to provide and deliver high quality eyeglasses. 
  4. Strengthen the national plans for a School based eye health strategy.  

Beneficiaries: 

The primary beneficiaries are the children and teachers at 159 government primary schools in Kenema. 44,000 children and 988 teachers will be screened by 300 trained teachers. We anticipate 4,400 children and 395 teachers will require a full eye test or onward referral for additional treatment. All students and their families will benefit from eye health education via a tailored behaviour change strategy, including sharing information on the radio, through school clubs and via community meetings.

Activities:

  • Ophthalmic Technicians and outreach staff will receive training so that they are able to examine, refract and refer children and teachers in primary schools. 
  • Teachers will be trained to screen, students will be refracted and counselled at vision friendly corners, and they will receive eyeglasses and/or are referred to non-surgical and surgical treatment. 
  • Support the Vision Centre to provide an uninterrupted supply of eyeglasses so that sustainability is improved by revenue earned.
  • VAO will gather information from this programme, including the monitoring of the use of eyeglasses, and develop a set of guidelines to present for adoption by the National Eye Care Committee.

Primary Eye Care

With thanks to The Clothworkers Foundation: for 'Primary Eye Care Pilot Project', reaching over 320,000 people and improving the skills of 240 Community Health Workers, 16 Community Health Officers, and three optometry Technicians, within three years between 2019-2022.

Goal: To reduce the prevalence of Uncorrected Refractive Error in children and adults across the Kenema district, the capital of the Eastern region of Sierra Leone.

Objectives:

  1. Enhance the capacity of government health workers to provide safe and inclusive optical services, especially vulnerable groups;
  2. Improve the availability of safe, essential eye services in Primary Health Units (PHUs) and District hospitals;
  3. Improve the delivery of quality eye health services to vulnerable groups;
  4. Increase the knowledge of basic eye health issues and services amongst the community;
  5. Increase the ability of the community to make decisions on spectacle wearing;
  6. Increase spectacle usage for vulnerable groups.

Beneficiaries:

Over 320,000 people will be pre-screened for eye issues by Community Health Workers and 131,733 people will be screened by a health worker trained in the WHO-approved Primary Eye Care method. We anticipate that 26,000 patients will require and be treated with eye drops for conjunctivitis symptoms and 10,800 patients will require and be issued life changing glasses.

The following health professionals will be trained: 240 Community Health Workers, 16 Community Health Officers (CHOs), 3 optometry Technicians (OTs). 90% of the target total population will benefit from health education activities to promote awareness, importance and uptake of eye health services.

Activities:

  • Training existing government health professionals at different levels of the Primary Health Care system (Community Health Workers , Community Health
  • Development of Behaviour change strategies, Community engagement, Community sensitization and eye health education materials.
  • Screening and referral and treatment of patients
  • Equipping the Vision Centre with additional frames and lenses to meet increased demand
  • Carrying out community outreach twice a year to provide eye tests to those patients who require them.
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of programme impact

Vision Centres

Thanks to the generous support from funding partners over recent years, we have so far established three Vision Centres in the Eastern Province (Kenema, Koidu and Kailahun) and one Vision Centre in the Northern Province (Bombali).

Kenema Vision Centre: Built within the Kenema Eye Hospital, the Kenema Vision Centre provides on-going support to the hospital to deliver eye tests and glasses to the public. The Vision Centre staff also support the hospital in delivering outreach clinics to the more isolated communities so that no one is left behind.

Koidu Dispensary: In 2015, the Koidu Vision Centre and Dispensary opened enabling people living within the Kono district to access much needed eye care services and affordable glasses.

Kailahun Dispensary: A further dispensary was opened in 2017 at Kailahun Government Hospital providing access to low-cost prescription glasses.

Bombali Vision Centre: Built in 2016 and located in Makeni, providing eye care teams to visit remote, rural communities.

Training and Education

We have also been able to support 15 Optometry Technicians with sponsorship to train in the Gambia, as Sierra Leone has no training facility.


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