More school eye screenings within sight thanks to funding from USAID’s Child Blindness Program

Operation Eyesight is excited to announce our funding partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). With support from USAID’s Child Blindness Program, we will provide vision screening and treatment for 80,000 children in Kenya.

Our team in Kenya will work closely with the local Ministries of Health and Education, targeting 80,000 students and 3,000 teachers in three sub-counties of Uasin Gishu County over a two-year period. Twenty teachers will be trained to use Peek Vision, a smartphone-based technology used to identify students with eyesight problems. Eye screenings will be conducted in 200 schools. Students in need of eye care will be referred to a mobile ophthalmic triage team or the nearest eye health facility, and transportation will be provided as needed.

Essilor East Africa will be supplying Operation Eyesight with the prescription eyeglasses needed to ensure that children (and teachers) receive the vision correction they require. Children requiring specialized care, such as cataract surgery, will receive treatment at one of our partner hospitals. Our continuum of care approach will ensure that students receive the same level of quality care, regardless of their gender, treatment location or ability to pay. Referral information and appointment reminders will be sent to the students’ parents through automated text messaging.

“By investing in children’s eye health to treat diseases, correct refractive error and restore sight, we can transform lives, families and communities,” says Alice Mwangi, Country Manager for Kenya. “We know that women and girls are more likely to suffer from vision impairment and less likely than men and boys to receive treatment and care. Through this project, many of the barriers faced by girls such as cost and lack of transportation are addressed. We will educate teachers, parents, grandparents and health workers on the additional barriers faced by girls so they understand and can play a role in addressing these challenges.”

This program is the culmination of strategic partnerships and leverages expertise and resources from other organizations to promote the integration of eye health into Kenya’s primary systems. By engaging the Ministries of Health and Education during all phases, we can ensure ongoing support and sustainability of the program. Ultimately, our goal is to integrate these school screenings and referral mechanisms within the entire county school system and have the local ministries take ownership of it.

From 2016 to 2018, we conducted a similar school screening program in the neighboring Trans Nzoia County. Our evaluation showed that an integrated system of care significantly improved the overall hospital attendance rate among children referred from Peek Vision compared with the standard system. Our program in Uasin Gishu County builds on the lessons learned in the Trans Nzoia initiative and aims to not only provide quality eye health services to school children but to further refine the model for scaling up in Kenya.

As an international development organization, we’re working to address the root causes of avoidable blindness and foster good health and well-being overall. That is why we’re also happy to share that Eco-Soap Bank will be providing 100,000 bars of soap for children and teachers of the program, for use at school and at home. Proper hand and face washing with soap and clean water can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as blinding trachoma and other disease.

Deborah (left) received a pair of prescription eyeglasses through our previous program. Here she shares a happy moment with her younger sister.

About USAID’s Child Blindness Program

With an emphasis on quality and innovation, USAID’s Child Blindness Program prevents and treats blindness, restores sight and provides eyeglasses to thousands of people in the poorest communities of the world each year. The program’s investments and actions are strategically focused around two main goals: 1) To increase the number of children provided with quality vision-saving eye care services; and 2) To advance the global knowledge base on best practices and innovative approaches for pediatric eye care programs. Since 1991, USAID’s Child Blindness Program has provided eye care to over seven million children worldwide.

Facts on Child Blindness

  • Globally, 239 million children live with poor vision, 1.4 million children are blind from disease and another 2 million are categorized as blind due to uncorrected refractive error.
  • An estimated 80% of all learning occurs through vision during the formative first 12 years of a child’s life.
  • At least 95% percent of visual impairment in children is due to refractive error that can be corrected with inexpensive eyeglasses.
  • More than half of blind children are girls, who are disproportionately affected by vision problems due to a lack of access to corrective services.

Facts retrieved on February 23, 2021 from:

This announcement is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Operation Eyesight Canada and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.