Affordable spectacles for all
Uncorrected refractive errors are the biggest cause of visual impairment. As many as 153 million people with uncorrected refractive errors for distance vision worldwide could be easily helped with a pair of spectacles. But in many countries screening facilities and spectacle dispensing services are few and far between and often limited to urban centres. In 2008, Light for the World started a pilot programme called NIURE (National Intervention on Uncorrected Refractive Errors), together with the Australian NGO Brien Holden Vision Institute, with the aim of providing affordable quality, locally produced spectacles to all Ugandans who need them. Over the following eight years, our local partners trained optometrists and other eye care staff, organised school screenings and awareness campaigns and developed a sustainable system of optical workshops throughout the country.
An essential part of our strategy is school eye health. A child whose sight problems are not addressed can be seriously hindered in their education and intellectual development. We train teachers to recognise if their students have vision problems and establish “vision corridors” at schools: sight tests painted on walls where students and teachers can easily test their eyesight and determine if it is necessary to visit an optometrist. In 2016, 36,269 children were screened and 1,166 received much needed clinically viable spectacles. Light for the World’s NIURE programme is considered an essential contribution not only to the eye health of the people of Uganda but also as a best practice example. In 2018 the central coordination will be handed over to the Ugandan Ministry of Health and Makerere University and we will move on to implement the system in Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
In the last eight years a total of 12,302 spectacles have been produced, 113,808 refraction tests conducted and 128,668 school children screened. 14 optometrists are currently being trained at Makerere University.