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Saturday, October 16, 2021

‘1 in every 3 Gambians has an eye defect’

At a press briefing convened over the weekend at the Sheikh Zayed Vision Hospital in Kanifing, the regional outreach manager for Onesight Gambia explained how in 2012, a research conducted in the country made such startling revelations. “Such eye defects, if left untreated develops into complex eye diseases for many people, resulting in serious blindness, chronic eye diseases and even deaths. But then, affordability and accessibility of such a huge quantity of Gambians to quality care glasses became a problem,” he said.

He said this is notwithstanding the fact that such eye problems develop with age, and at 40 to 45 years, the situation becomes severe. He said it is the main reason why the Gambia government, through the national eye care programme, and its partners based in the US, Onesight, came up with “a sustainable Vision Care Model” which is based on accessibility, affordability and awareness. 

Lisa Curcureto, project manager of Onesight Gambia, explained how a small token of donated eyeglasses to needy Gambians has grown into the establishment of a full-fledged manufacturing laboratory at the Sheikh Zayed Vision Center, where eyeglasses are manufactured in the country instead of being ordered from outside. 

“The first project was opened in Farafenni, where we had a vision center and provide quality eye care services to people. However, the costs were high and as such, needy patients rely on support of families or sometimes, even tourists to purchase eyeglasses for them. So in October 2013, we started expanding with the opening of our flagship project – a manufacturing laboratory where glasses and quality designer frames can be made thereby reducing costs. From this laboratory, it is distributed all over the country,” she said.

Kura Joof, health education officer, ministry of health said the project has identified and trained over 60 community-based workers who can conduct basic eye screening and make referrals to eye care centers. As part of its sustainability drive, all the staff of the project are trained Gambians. 

Amadou Bah, administrator at the Sheikh Zayed Vision Hospital said the hospital has been in operations in the country for the past 8 to ten years, and that they are privileged to be supported by a leading manufacturer of eye care glasses in the US, Onesight. He said most of the cases they receive at the hospital are referrals from other centers around the country and the sub-region.

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