Sefwi Health Initiative (SHI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in partnership with Third Eye Care and Vision Centre, has offered a free eye-screening exercise for some junior high school pupils in the Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai District and Wiawso Municipality in the Western Region.
The two-day exercise was carried out at Chirano ICT laboratory for about 600 JHS Two and Three pupils and 50 teachers from 16 schools in the area last Tuesday and Wednesday.
A co-founder of SHI, Dr Alex Nana Djan, who is also in charge of Health and Occupational Hygiene at Chirano Gold Mines Limited, said vision impairments in children were common in the area and if not treated it could affect their development.
He stated that “apart from affecting their studies, it could also lead to permanent vision loss. Early detection and treatment are critical. Visual functioning is a strong predictor of academic performance in school-age children and vision disorders in childhood could affect his or her well-being in adult years,” Dr Djan added.
Some of the major causes of childhood blindness include corneal scarring from Vitamin A deficiency and measles, cataracts, glaucoma, uncorrected refractive errors and retinopathy of prematurity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “childhood blindness refers to a group of diseases and conditions occurring in childhood or early adolescence, which, if left untreated, results in blindness or severe visual impairment that are likely to be untreatable later in life.”
It added that out of an estimated 1.4 million children who are blind. 45 per cent of them were blinded from preventable or avoidable causes.
“The situation in low income countries is more serious as 15 in every 100 children are blind from conditions that are preventable. In high income countries, the situation is far different where three in every 100 children become blind,” it added.
The Community Programmes Coordinator for (SHI), Mr Joseph William Anyan, explained that the exercise was carried out to help address the health needs of pupils in the area majority of who were deprived.
He said people in rural communities lacked basic social amenities, including quality health care. “Rural areas often have fewer opticians and dentists and certain specialists are not even there at all,” Mr Anyan indicated.
He thanked Chirano Gold Mines Limited for sponsoring the exercise and, therefore, helping save the sights of these children who are the future leaders.
Sefwi Health Initiative (SHI) is a grassroots non-profit non-governmental organisation with the vision to improve the health and welfare of women, men and children within the Chirano Gold Mines Limited (CGML) operational area.
The organisation, from its inception, has been involved with local community people in improving the area through various programmes such as breast cancer screening, hand washing, health talks, blood donation and a spelling competition.