Over 18,000 children in Uganda blind - study

By Saudha Nakandha

"We found that the number is alarming," says Dr. Johnson Ngorok.

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KAMPALA - More than 18,000 children in Uganda are blind, according to recent research finding  by the Sightsavers Uganda.

Dr Johnson Ngorok, the Country Director Sightsavers made the revelation on Tuesday during the closing ceremony of the Implementation of the ‘Seeing is Believing Child Eye Health Project at the Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo.

"During Standard Chartered sponsored five-year initiative of the Seeing is believing campaign that was launched to carry out the initiative of making significant advances towards the elimination of blinding trachoma across the country, we found that the number is alarming," Ngorok said.

Ngorok said for many children treated during the project, half of these children had cataract problems.

"Cataract can be corrected with an operation. We also found that 2% children had relective error and needed glasses to stay in school," Ngorok emphasized.

He added that apart from this, children also had shortsightedness, allergies and shortsightedness as the other eye problems.

Ngorok attributed the eye problems to mostly being congenital factor among others.
Dr Naome Nsubuga of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, warned parents to be cautious and not ignore eye problems to save the sight of their children.

"When you realise your child tearing, eyes are red, he or she scratches the eyes, it is best you take them for early screening to save them the blindness where it can be corrected,"Nsubuga said.

Hellen Komukama, a pupil of Uganda Marytrs Primary School Mbarara, said she had an eye problem that was corrected when she was given glasses.

"I was unable to see well , my father took me for screening, in March this year, and I got the corrective lenses. I can now see things on the blackboard and book which I would not do previously," Komukama explained.

The Minister of Health Ruth Aceng in her speech read by principal medical officer Dr. Stanley Bubikire, said blindness is one of the major disabilities the country experiences

"Nearly 90% of the affected population lives in the rural areas and two thirds are women and girls are affected by blindness. It puts an increased social and economic strain to the affected individual," Achen said.

She added that the problem encourages the vicious cycle of poverty which in turn undermines initiatives aiming at prosperity for all.

According to Population and Housing census 2014 12.4%, people aged two and above are disabled. And that eye diseases are among the 10 top diseases in the country.

She also warned that the eye problems could multiply if no effective measures are taken soon.

"Without cost effective interventions taken, the burden of blindness is expected to double by 2020.The life expectancy a blind person is reduced by five years," Aceng noted.

She championed collective effort of government, communities and other stakeholders.