By Ekeoma Ogwo and Augusta Uchediunor
As many as 600 schoolchildren in some communities in Ikorodu, Lagos State, have benefited from a “free eye check, diagnosis, treatment and glasses” provided by the RESTORE Foundation For Child Sight, an NGO.
The foundation’s executive director, Dr Halima Alimi, told the Nigeria News Agency (NAN) in Lagos on Sunday that the aim of the outreach was to prevent eye problems in children.
This, she says, is because poor eyesight impairs learning and can eventually cause blindness.
The Nigerian News Agency (NAN) reports that Restore Foundation is taking action and advocating for improving eye health in children.
Alimi said: “Our mission is to maximize children’s academic achievement by optimizing their vision, because good vision allows children to excel academically.
“Unfortunately, many children do not perform well academically simply because they are hampered by poor eyesight.
“That is why this program aims to test their eyes to know their condition and detect any developing problem for prompt treatment.
“Those who need eye drops, glasses or surgery receive medicines from the foundation, completely free of charge, because we know they cannot afford the costs.
“This is our own way of helping underprivileged children break the cycle of poverty,” she said.
Alimi also said the approximately two-year-old foundation conducts quarterly outreach.
She said the first was held in Ebute-Metta East and West communities, including Makoko.
She emphasized that the main target of the project was the riverine areas, because the population is underprivileged.
The eye specialist said: “My team, which consists of general ophthalmologists, pediatric ophthalmologists and others, has tested about 1500 children so far.
“We distributed more than 400 vials of eye drops, identified 120 children in need of glasses and four others in need of cataract surgery within three days of the planned four-day outreach.”
She added that of the targeted 45 schools with an estimated 2,500 students, 30 schools, including Jojegs School, Salem Brainy School, Carter Bridge School and others, had been reached.
Alimi explained that the foundation relied solely on donations from friends and members of the public for financial support and sponsorship.
She added that apart from the Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), an NGO that funded cataract surgery for four diagnosed students, neither the government nor corporate agencies had contributed any form of support to the fin.
She said other partners only provided technical support.
She pleaded for more financial support to allow the foundation to make more of an impact.
“We reach the general public, people who are willing to donate to charity. So we have depended on some of the donations we received.
“As I said, we are a young foundation and we have been around for about two years now; so we hope to get some attention.
“We can work with both national and international brands.
“Organizations interested in the underprivileged communities are already paving the way.
“As far as I know we are the only ones doing it. So the more support we get, the more impact we can make.
“We run our outreach programs every quarter, but if we have enough money, we can have about six to eight times a year,” she said.
Alimi said that in addition to community outreaches, the foundation also runs programs in orphanages, visiting orphanages and providing eye care and treatment to the children there.
She added that last year the foundation had an outreach for albinos, who are most vulnerable to eye problems because of their condition.
“Last year we had an outreach for albinos because we again understand that this is an underprivileged group of people who are born with eye problems.
“However, we were able to change that story by testing, treating and giving glasses to about 130 of them and they are all doing much better in schools,” she said.
According to the eye care specialist, the foundation will expand its outreach programs to schools for the hearing and intellectually disabled and other underprivileged communities so that children there can benefit from the outreach.
Alimi said the most common eye challenges detected were refractive errors, which are responsible for farsightedness or nearsightedness, allergies, then cataracts and glaucoma.
She noted that any eye problem found in adults can also be found in children, but unlike adults, children are most vulnerable because their brains are still developing.
“In any community, especially in developing countries, you would see a lot of allergies that many children suffer from.
“We are in the rainy season, when allergies are very common. Thus, children with allergies react to dust, particles, sand, etc.
“About 95 percent of the eye drops we’ve been handing out are mostly for allergies.
“We managed to help and educate them on how to manage the allergies,” Alimi said.
She advised educators to inculcate eye health education in the children and avoid playing with sharp pointed objects such as pencils or sticks to prevent eye problems. (NAN) www.nannnews.ng
Edited by Augusta Uchediunor/Vivian Ihechu