Seeing More Clearly through ChildSight®

The eighth graders at MS 80 in the Bronx line up, single file, in front of an eye chart on the stage of their crowded auditorium. Some of them read the letters on the chart aloud with clarity and certainty. Others have trouble reading even the top few lines. Some students are already wearing glasses, while others have spent months and even years squinting to read letters on signs or on the chalkboard in class. more…

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Categories Preventing Blindness, United States

Cape Verde: Leading the Way to Good Nutrition in West Africa

What’s the protocol for visiting a former head of state? In Cape Verde, our delegation walked up to his door, knocked, and President Monteiro himself greeted us. This typifies the graciousness and modesty that he has shown in all of our interactions.

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

Stalking “Big Fut” in Sierra Leone

This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post as part of GivingTuesday initiative. 

After flying from New York City to Dakar to Banjul to Freetown, riding a bus to a dock and a boat across a bay to a 4X4 truck that travels up and down roads that transition from broken pavement to muddy earth, I stand at the front of a classroom – one that is empty of children.  Today, 30 adults sit in row after row of benches, some bending forward with heads propped on elbows as if they have been waiting a long time.  And they have.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Eyes on Nutrition

girls eating carrots

Today is World Sight Day which is celebrated every year on the second Thursday in October to raise awareness about avoidable blindness and visual impairment.

I’ve worn glasses since I was a young student, so I’m pretty familiar with visual impairment. In fact, I couldn’t really function at all without my glasses (or contacts) -– I couldn’t drive, work on the computer, cook, manage my way through my apartment, etc.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness, Reducing Malnutrition

Saving Sight on World Sight Day

Yayé Tounakar receiving eyelid surgery

By Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.

I have visited several of Helen Keller International (HKI) programs to control Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and blogged about them here. Among the main NTDs that HKI works to control is trachoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

10 Years On: Food Fortification in West Africa

By Shawn Baker, HKI’s Vice President and Regional Director for Africa.

Two weeks ago, I arrived in Abidjan from Dakar in early evening. Passport control, retrieving luggage and getting out of the airport took only minutes. Hassle-free. In the past there would have been aggravations at each stage. This set the tone for most of my visit – after 10 years of political crisis and a contested election that resulted in weeks of warfare – Abidjan is back!  more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness, Reducing Malnutrition

The Importance of Good Partnerships: Meet HKI’s Dr. David S. Friedman

An interview with HKI's Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor.
Dave_Friedman

You sometimes hear the phrase, “One plus one equals three,” and I have been struck by the power of that notion in my work with Helen Keller International through the partnerships we create with local organizations. I recently sat down with Dr. David S. Friedman, HKI’s Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor, to talk about his experiences in public health and his perspective on building partnerships to achieve success.  Dr. Friedman most recently was awarded the prestigious Alcon Research Institute award for his contributions to ophthalmic research.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness, Staff Profiles

Meeting My “Daughter” in Niger

An inside look into HKI's trachoma control activities in Niger and Mali.
Ladies

Post by Emily Toubali, HKI’s Program Manager of Neglected Tropical Disease Control. Photos by Emily Toubali and Aryc Mosher.

Amina Nouhou lived for over 20 years with the searing pain of trichiasis, the final stage of the blinding disease of trachoma.  Each time she blinked, the eyelashes of her left eye scraped her cornea.  I cannot even begin to imagine the extreme discomfort she silently endured each day.  She woke up, cleaned her house, and cooked meals for her family, in constant suffering from this excruciating condition.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Becoming “Mr. Helen Keller”

Shawn Baker describes being interviewed for "Francophone Africa's CNN" about HKI’s West Africa-wide food fortification initiative.
africable_tv

By Shawn Baker, HKI’s Vice President and Regional Director for Africa.

“Bonjour Monsieur Helen Keller” (“Good morning Mister Helen Keller”) greeted me this week on my morning run on the beach in Dakar. Several text messages and e-mails from friends and colleagues saying they had seen me on television came in later that day. I then realized that Africable was at it again – spreading the word about HKI’s work across French-speaking Africa.

HKI’s relationship with Africable started in 2010. This television station based in Bamako, Mali is positioning itself as the CNN equivalent of Francophone Africa. As part of their celebration of 50 years of independence of many countries in Africa, they organized a regional media tour to celebrate African integration and HKI’s West Africa-wide food fortification initiative was highlighted. Through that partnership, millions of households were informed about the benefits of essential vitamins and minerals being added to cooking oil and wheat flour, through interviews and engaging commercials like this one.

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

Why Breast Is Best

In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, HKI's Jennifer Nielsen talks about her work promoting exclusive breastfeeding.
Diffa Mother Breastfeeding

This post was written by Jennifer Nielsen.

My job as HKI’s Senior Program Manager for Nutrition and Health is, in some ways, not unlike that of advertising executive. I sell a product. In my case, the product is not fancy shoes or designer jeans, but healthy nutrition practices. Getting people to change their behaviors, even when it will improve their health, is not always easy (think of all the anti-smoking campaigns you have seen and how many people still smoke).

One of HKI’s key nutrition goals is to persuade mothers to feed their infants nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months of life, or as we like to say in the trade, to “exclusively breastfeed.” There are often cultural beliefs and traditions that prevent mothers from adopting this healthy practice, and it is my job to overcome these barriers and convince new moms that breast is truly best.

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Categories Reducing Malnutrition