Loss of sight in older people is an increasingly difficult predicament in third-world countries as conditions like trachoma and/or cataracts develop as quality care and treatment is not available. This can lead to anyone with a slight form of these conditions developing blindness. However, last month, Sightsavers along with other international humanitarian organizations, launched an initiative partnered with the Ugandan government and its Expanding Social Protection (ESP) Program to help Ugandans over the age of 65, a risk group, with any and all eye diseases and care. The ESP has been operating since 2010 with support from the UK and the Irish Aid programs, it is focused on preventing disability and poverty in the populations that are most vulnerable to it.
This service is funded through the UK’S DFID (Department for International Development), Sightsavers’ CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Community Health) program and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. The program operates by offering seniors in Uganda that are collecting their pension through the ESP program free eye care.
According to the Director of Sightsavers Uganda County division, Johnson Ngorok, the collaboration between Sightsavers and other international organizations has allowed thousands of seniors as well as youth to access surgery that gave them sight and changed their lives. The head of the ESP, Stephen Kasaija, states that the pension and free eye care will protect senior citizens from poverty and disability, improving their welfare in general. The ESP program also states that it aims to significantly reduce poverty related to age by providing the aforementioned pension to people aged over 65 in Uganda and 60 and over in the Karamoja region, an area notorious for crippling poverty. The Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Hubilee Trust, Dr. Astrid Bonfield, has also sang praises for the program, saying that it is enabling anyone of any age to acquire great eye care and prevent visual disabilities.