Posts in Category: “Preventing Blindness”

Helen Keller International aims to prevent blindness around the world. 80% of all blindness is avoidable, with simple, proven solutions such as adequate vitamin A, low-cost surgeries, and annual doses of antibiotics.

7 Reasons Why Sierra Leone is Winning Against Neglected Tropical Diseases

by Dr. Mary Hodges, Country Director, Helen Keller International – Sierra Leone

The following article was published on The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network on June 24, 2014. It was originally commissioned as part of the Development Progress series.

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Despite poverty and a recent civil war, Sierra Leone has rapidly expanded treatment for NTDs. What can other countries learn?

The Lancet recently published a report on gains made towards reaching the 2020 neglected tropical disease (NTD) elimination goals set by the 2012 London declaration. Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone, in particular, has made incredible strides.

Before the current NTD control programme, approximately half of the districts saw over 50% of their children infected with schistosomiasis (snail fever) before they reached 14. By 2010 mass drug administration had reached, and has since maintained, 100% geographic coverage of those at risk of NTDs, outperforming neighbouring countries.

This rapid progress has been unexpected in the post-conflict setting. By the end of the rebel war in 2002, most health facilities were damaged, ill-equipped and their staff and communities traumatised. Many health professionals had been evacuated during the war and had little opportunity or incentives to return.

While sustained funding from USAid is one explanation behind the country’s success, other countries like Nigeria, with strong funding and better resourced health sectors and public communications systems, have not made the same level of progress. So why has progress in NTD control in Sierra Leone been so swift? Here are some key lessons behind Sierra Leone’s success. more…

(0) Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Running to Save Sight

111_1404-X2

Photos: c. HKI/Chad Haas

Born in rural Minnesota, Lisa Reeck decided on a whim to participate in a half marathon in 2009.  That race sparked a passion in Lisa, and running quickly became a constant source of inspiration in her life, through good times and bad.

When Lisa’s mother began to lose her vision and was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy a few years ago, Lisa felt compelled to help others who also experience vision loss.

more…

(0) Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Categories Preventing Blindness, United States

On the Path to Clearer Vision

Imagine that your sight is slowly declining and you have no idea why. That’s what happened to Bibhuti Chakraborthy, a 55 year-old farmer and father of three children who lives in rural Bangladesh.

Bibhuti attending his most recent check-up. Photo: c. HKI

Three years ago, Bibhuti noticed that he could no longer see his fields as clearly as he once did. Tasks that were once simple became more difficult because he had trouble seeing. He didn’t understand what was happening to his vision or why he could no longer see properly and everyday life became a struggle. Desperate for answers,  he visited the nearest hospital where he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy, a condition where damage to the blood vessels in your eye leads to visual impairment.  Bibhuti was not even aware that he had diabetes or that diabetes could be connected to the vision problems he was experiencing.  Unfortunately, Bibhuti’s story is not uncommon: people suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy are often unaware that their vision problems are connected to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) affects 4.2 million people around the world, most of whom live in developing countries.  With cases of diabetes on the rise worldwide, it is more important than ever that diabetics understand the risks and complications of the disease. HKI trains health workers to screen people for DR to promote early detection. The program also provides treatment and counseling that helps diabetes patients understand the risk factors associated with diabetes. Piloted three years ago in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the program has already provided screenings to 25,000 diabetics and preserved the sight of 4,000 of them.

Bibuthi is seeing much better these days. He completed a sightsaving laser treatment in his right eye and is about to undergo another surgery for his left eye.  Thanks to HKI’s counseling programs and regular visits to his doctor, he now understands the implications of his diabetes.  He tries to walk at least 20 minutes each morning, takes his tea without sugar and tries to balance his diet with more vegetables, cutting out the sugars and fats that worsen his condition. He also receives regular phone calls to remind him of his check-ups and treatments, and Bibuthi is glad to know that HKI is with him each step of the way as he continues on the path toward clearer vision.

(0) Comments
Tags: , ,
Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

Back to School with Clear Vision!

Pencils are sharpened, notebooks are at the ready and the excitement of a new school year, full of new beginnings and possibilities, is in the air for students all around the United States.  But many are starting the school year off at a disadvantage.  Some have to squint to read the blackboard or borrow notes from their friends; others lose their place while reading their text books. more…

(0) Comments
Tags: ,
Categories Preventing Blindness, United States

Packing Up At The Wrong Time

This blog was written by Michael Wilson, field intern at HKI Vietnam. 

As our time in Vietnam winds down, things at HKI Vietnam are doing just the opposite. Since we arrived in Hanoi close to eight weeks ago, things have progressively become busier around the office. The dog days are over here in Hanoi. Since arriving, the staff in Hanoi’s small but productive office have been busy preparing for the implementation of ChildSight® in three provinces starting in August- Ha Dong, Quoc Oai, and Nam Dinh.

HKI Vietnam has also recently received confirmation to begin the Homestead Food Production program here in Vietnam. This is an exciting new venture for Vietnam to now expand their reach and partnerships, starting in the Son La province in the coming months.

It is hard to believe that we will be packing up and leaving the beautiful Hanoi in just a few short days. We have learned so much from the staff at HKI and have enjoyed working on various projects, particularly the materials and surveys used to educate and measure knowledge and Quality of Life of the children enrolled in Vietnam’s ChildSight® program.

We are sad to leave, especially at what seems like such an exciting time the office is in- preparing for the launch of four programs and the hiring of three additional support staff.

Much thanks to all who made this opportunity possible for Casey and I. Of course, it will be hard to leave the Bánh cuốn, Khúc mía, motorbike rides, and the stifling humidity (kidding), but what will be hardest to leave will be the staff at HKI who have taken us in like family and taught and shown us many valuable, unforgettable lessons about their culture and their hearts towards the blind, hungry, and less fortunate people of Vietnam.

(0) Comments
Tags: , , ,
Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

National Sovereignty, Nutrition and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Launch of NMDs 1999. Children singing that vitamin A “saves sight and lives”. June 30, 1999. Photo: c. HKI

Flying into Niamey, the capital of Niger, always feels like coming home. Since starting development work in 1981 it is the country that has the most marked me and where I have traveled the most extensively. We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. They will go on from Niamey to a leprosy hospital further to the East, and then on to Chad. The flight in is at the perfect time of day in the perfect season. The beginning of the rainy season has washed off the dust and the foliage is a brilliant green, contrasting with the red earth. The end-of-day light gives the perfect glow to the landscape. Immigration at the airport is more nervous than usual about having journalists visit – perhaps because of the heightened security concerns. However with a little explanation on several fronts the team is out of the airport and off to their first visit in Niamey. more…

(1) Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

The Front Line of Eye Health

This blog post was written by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Regional Director of West Africa.

MAMBIRI, KITA  (MALI), July 3, 2013. When we arrived at the community health center in the village of Mambiri, there was already a throng of patients waiting. In the days prior, the local health workers had canvassed the area surrounding Mambiri, informing people that a team would be visiting to conduct trachoma screening and surgery for those with trichiasis. The team consisted of three ophthalmological nurses who have traveled from Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The team is mid-way through a ten day circuit of the local health centers, in remote communities such as Mambiri. The team works with the local health center staff to get the word out, to screen and to follow up patients who need further care or treatment.

Nurse Adama Sangaré (left) and the Eye Health team in Mali. Photo: c. HKI/Douglas Steinberg

One nurse, Adama Sangaré, works the through the crowd who are seated along with wall under the awning of the health center, consulting with each individual. They come with a variety of eye care issues, many of which can be easily treated with tetracycline or other antibiotics, and the patients sent on their way. Some will present issues, such as cataracts, that are referred to the district or regional hospital. Around a half dozen will require surgery for trichiasis, which is performed on the spot by two other nurses. Their goal is to perform an average of seven operations a day.

I am greatly impressed by the team of nurses. They are skilled in their work, and take the time to discuss (in the local language Bamabara) with each patient. They advise the patients how to avoid getting infected again, for example through face washing. The few who need surgery are coached through the procedure, with gentle words. The operation is fairly painless (patients say), but it still takes some nerve to submit to it. And all go away pleased with the results. The health care workers who provide this service are working in very basic conditions. They are away from home long periods, staying in remote areas with no amenities – not even running water or electricity. They are really the front line of eye health in Mali, and they perform their work with great pride and good cheer.

(1) Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Timbuktu, Terrorism, Trachoma

For centuries Mali has been known for the mythical city of Timbuktu. Unfortunately, events in the last two years have also made it known for terrorism. In public health circles it has long been known as a major part of the trachoma belt – a band of Africa where the leading infectious cause of blindness is concentrated. Our trip up North made us hope that Timbuktu will be resurgent and that the days of terrorism will be but distant, if painful, memories. Today’s trip also gave great hope that trachoma, which has caused so much suffering for generations of Malians, will be consigned to the past and that the country can look forward to a future free of this scourge.

We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. Today we left the capital of Mali, Bamako, to head to the Kita district. more…

(0) Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

HKI Vietnam Staff Profile- Linh Doan Duy

Written by Casey McCormick and Michael Wilson, HKI Vietnam interns

This week we will do our first HKI Vietnam staff interview. To really appreciate the projects HKI Vietnam is working on, we thought it would be helpful to better understand the faces, personalities, and characters behind the day-to-day projects.

more…

(0) Comments
Tags: ,
Categories Preventing Blindness

From the classroom to the real world…

So, we have finished our first week in the office. We are official public health practitioners and it feels great.

more…

(1) Comment
Tags: , , ,
Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness