On September 3 and 4, ORBIS in partnership with the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) held meetings with government representatives, funders and other relevant NGOs to advocate for better access to quality eye health and treatment for Africa's children. Their findings are published in a report: Towards Better Eye Health Care for Africa's Children. The goal is to develop an action plan to put children's eye health on national development and public health agendas.
The report is the first of its kind detailing child's eye health in Africa and is co-authored by Lene Øverland, Director of Program ORBIS EMEA; Reshma Dabineen, Senior Program Advisor, ORBIS Africa; Annalies Borrel, Program Director, African Child Policy Forum and Yehualashet Mekonen, Senior Program Manager, African Child Policy Forum.
“Children's eye health has human rights, health, education and economic implications for Sub-Saharan countries,” says Dabideen. “Our findings point to the need for a strong African child eye health program of action which is adopted and promoted by continental, regional and national governments, development partners, civil society organizations as well as communities and families alike.”
“Early detection and intervention is critical, ideally before age six. Early childhood development programs and services are ideal for screening and early diagnosis but these are not common in many parts of Africa and exist predominantly in urban areas.”
In South Africa ORBIS has been working closely with the Department of Health to develop eye health interventions at a primary health care and tertiary level. In 2011 the Department of Health opened the ORBIS Pediatric Eye Care Centre at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Durban, and to date over 200 primary health care nurses in the province have received training from ORBIS on vision screening of young children.
“Strengthening primary, secondary and tertiary level eye health care works, but it is not reaching every child at risk,” says Dabideen. She says that expecting a Department of Health to tackle the problem alone is unrealistic as many children are in marginalized and live in under-serviced communities. “It requires collaboration to reach families in the ante-natal and post-natal periods, and while the child is young. Eye health must be integrated into general health as well as any other early childhood development services, into school and community outreach programs.”
This week's meeting of stakeholders has been sponsored by South Africa's Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the Foundation for Human Rights of South Africa.
“Preventing and treating children's blindness and visual impairment is rooted in the realisation of children's rights, specifically to the right to the highest attainable health and ensuring their protection against preventable infections,” said co-author Borrel.
To read the full report click here.