Sight Impairments in Poverty
Poverty can be a result of several contributing factors unique to the country in which a person lives, the family they were born into and/or having a disability. Whether the disability contributes to blindness, deafness or a physical ailment, people with disabilities in poverty can have a much more difficult life. Looking more closely at blindness, people in poverty with this particular disability have a higher mortality rate. Therefore, those living with sight impairments in poverty are at an elevated risk of death. Studies about the correlation between poverty and blindness in Africa found that people who are both blind and poor live 15 to 20 years less than those who are only poor. The correlation between blindness and poverty has also found that people who are blind can become unemployed, which in turn, leads to living below the poverty line.

The Scope of the Problem

Worldwide, 2.2 billion people experience blindness or vision impairment and only 1 billion of those cases are preventable with proper treatment. Without proper eye care and preventative treatments, people suffer not only with visual impairments but also in their socioeconomic status. Several visual impairments arise from cataract, glaucoma and corneal opacity. While some cases may require extensive care, others can be improved by providing glasses to correct visual impairments. The need to provide care for those visually impaired is vital to help keep people out of poverty. The organization, SEE International, provides care to those with sight impairments in poverty, through volunteers who help to correct handicaps.

SEE International

SEE International is a nonprofit organization that relies on teams of volunteers to provide their services to those in need. They consist of 650 professional optometrists who work in 80 countries and developed 200 programs. The programs allow the optometrists to use their expertise to help those with curable, eye impairments. Depending on the severity of the case, optometrists will work in their location for up to five days while giving lectures to pass on their knowledge. SEE International volunteers can help between 50–300 people during their program. The organization partners with other healthcare organizations to provide the necessary equipment for successful surgeries. SEE International can aid with several eye conditions and diseases, e.g.: cataracts, childhood and corneal blindness, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and strabismus. Through education and distribution of proper resources, SEE International aids the community in preventing several diseases.

Lasting Effects

Volunteers from SEE International work to aid those with visual impairments and also provide equipment that can stay within the country. This way, optometrists who are natives can perform procedures to support their community. Knowing there are ways to prevent visual impairments can lead to organizations like SEE International taking action. Unfortunately, disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and can prevent people from obtaining a better life. With preventive treatments, people who were once visually impaired can continue their education, begin working and provide for their families. By providing education and supplies to those in need, SEE International can give relief and aid to those on their journey towards a brighter future.

Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

countries that have eliminated trachoma

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than 1.4 billion people in 149 countries. These diseases flourish in areas of the world where there is a lack of basic sanitation, which means that the global poor have the highest risk of contracting them. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but due to a lack of resources and aid, millions of people still suffer from these diseases that can cause them to be disfigured, disabled and may even result in death.

However, with the help of several different organizations and national campaigns, many countries have successfully eliminated some NTDs, including trachoma, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that affects the eyes and eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inward toward the eye leaving patients blind.

Here are three countries that have eliminated trachoma.

3 Countries That Have Eliminated Trachoma

  • Ghana – In 2018, Ghana became the first country in West Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma. Three groups were instrumental in this effort: FHI 360 – a nonprofit human development organization; END in Africa Project (financed by USAID) and Ghana Health Service’s NTD program. Working together, the three organizations eliminated blinding trachoma over an eight-year period. From 2010 to 2018, the END in Africa Project supported the global distribution of more than 464 million NTD Program treatments for trachoma and other diseases. They also mapped disease distribution, treated at-risk populations and monitored treatment impact while also documenting successes along the road to eliminating this terrible disease. FHI 360 provided technical and financial assistance for trachoma post-treatment surveillance, which will help with further prevention of the disease. The program’s long surveillance and treatment of patients is a testament to its dedication and commitment to ending NTDs.
  • Laos – In 2017, Laos became the fifth endemic country in the world to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem. Blinding trachoma was especially common among young children. The United States government had been supporting Laos since 2012 through several USAID projects, such as END in Asia and ENVISION. These projects assisted the Ministry of Health in collecting reliable data on the status of trachoma, which helped determine the correct approach to eradicate the disease. Laos was able to place ophthalmologists at national, provincial and district levels to detect and operate on cases of patients with the disease. The projects also trained primary health care workers to screen patients for trachoma, and they gave patients with less severe conditions the antibiotic eye treatments they needed. Nongovernmental organizations also helped train health volunteers in villages on ways to prevent trachoma. Education ministries invited volunteers to come to their schools and educate their students on facial cleanliness and showed how the infection spread from person to person. Laos achieved amazing success with its partners, working to not only diagnose and treat the disease but also to educate people on how to prevent trachoma.
  • Mexico – Mexico became the first country in the Americas and the third country in the world to officially eliminate trachoma in April 2017. In 2004, the Secretary of Health of the state of Chiapas formed a group of health professionals called Trachoma Brigades to implement SAFE, the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization to eliminate the disease. In their fight against this disease, Mexico provided surgery for people at imminent risk of blindness, administered antibiotics in affected communities to reduce infection in children as well as to stop transmission, promoted personal hygiene and improved environmental conditions. The SAFE strategy’s 4 interventions have been especially successful in the state of Chiapas. Trachoma was endemic in 246 communities in the state and affected over 146,000 citizens. Trachoma Brigades, alongside national, state and community efforts and international partners, eradicated this disease. Trachoma Brigades visited communities several times a year to conduct surveys, eye examinations, identify cases, administer antibiotics, educate children about proper hygiene and perform surgeries.

These three countries worked for years to eradicate this trachoma and improve their citizens’ quality of life. The combined efforts of multiple organizations and governments brought medication, surgeries and public education to these countries toward achieving this goal. In addition to Ghana, Laos and Mexico, countries such as Cambodia, Togo, The Marshall Islands, Oman and Morocco have also made progress against this disease.

It is a U.S. foreign policy objective to support the treatment, control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The World Health Organization recognizes 17 NTDs which currently afflict 1.4 billion people around the globe. Urge Congress to support the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and safeguard national security.

Email Congress to End NTDs

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: WHO

VISION 2020 initiativeBlindness, as well as moderate to severe visual impairments (MSVI), affects hundreds of millions of people around the world. An estimated 217 million people suffer from MSVI, and 36 million are blind. However, despite the fact that 89 percent of all visually impaired people live in developing countries, blindness tends to be one of the more overlooked aspects of anti-poverty and development efforts around the world.

In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with more than 20 other organizations, launched the VISION 2020: The Right to Sight campaign, which intended to “eliminate the main causes of all preventable and treatable blindness as a public health issue by the year 2020.” Since the beginning of the campaign, much progress has been made in reducing preventable blindness around the world. However, preventable blindness continues to be an issue around the world, particularly in impoverished countries.

Before diving into the origins, objectives and accomplishments of the VISION 2020 initiative, it will be useful to understand how blindness, MSVI and global poverty intersect.

Blindness and Global Poverty

Due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of blind and visually impaired people live in poor and middle-income countries, poor eye health has become deeply intertwined with global poverty. In general, blindness and MSVI are common among the global poor because of their inability to afford health services, which puts them at an increased risk of contracting eye diseases. Additionally, a lack of awareness about eye health exacerbates this problem.

Unfortunately, poverty can cause blindness just as much as blindness can cause poverty. Blindness can impose severe economic burdens on those affected by drastically reducing their ability to work and provide for themselves. Ninety percent of blind people around the world cannot work. High levels of blindness also create economic problems for whole countries, and even the world economy. In 2000, it was estimated that visual impairment cost the global economy between $19,223 million and $22,764 million in GDP.

Blindness can also bring negative social consequences, such as a loss of social standing and authoritative decision-making. This social stigma is particularly prevalent in blind women, 80 percent of whom report a loss of authority within their families. Additionally, the economic impact of blindness can lead the afflicted to feel an increased sense of social isolation and alienation from their communities.

The VISION 2020 Initiative

The VISION 2020 initiative is a multi-organization campaign, launched by the WHO in 1999, which aims to eliminate preventable blindness by the year 2020. In order to achieve this goal, VISION 2020 has used three core strategies. These include using specific programs to control and treat the major causes of blindness, training ophthalmologists and other eye doctors to provide eye care to those who need it, and improving technology and infrastructure to increase the accessibility of eye treatment.

Since the VISION 2020 initiative launched, some progress has undeniably been made toward reducing preventable blindness worldwide. Between 1999 and 2015, the prevalence of visual impairment decreased from 4.58 percent to 3.38 percent. Additionally, many low and middle-income countries are seeing increased rates of cataract surgery.

However, despite the fact that the campaign is in its final year, it will not achieve its goal of ending preventable blindness around the world. Compounding this problem, researchers are pointing to emerging global health trends that are expected to cause an increase in visual impairments around the world. For example, an increase in the elderly population will likely give rise to an increase in age-related visual impairments, like cataracts. Increased rates of diabetes around the world are causing higher rates of diabetic retinopathy.

It is important to recognize that while these health developments may complicate efforts to reduce blindness worldwide, the fact that researchers have knowledge of these trends can shape the strategies of future anti-blindness campaigns. Despite the failure of the VISION 2020 initiative to end preventable blindness around the world, experts can learn from the program’s shortcomings and build on its successes going forward.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

vision in developing countriesOver 90 percent of visually impaired people worldwide live in developing countries. Sightsavers partners with local entities to protect vision in developing countries from the Caribbean to Africa and Asia. The organization has treated over 200 million people for potentially blinding conditions.

To date, Sightsavers has facilitated seven million eye operations in 30 countries to prevent blindness. The organization has also trained almost 500,000 medical providers in eye care and has rehabilitated 91,000 visually impaired people.

Sightsavers specifically treats neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), cataracts and refractive errors that negatively affect vision in developing countries. The nongovernmental organization also advocates for disability-inclusive development.

Neglected Tropical Diseases

Over one billion people globally are impacted by neglected tropical diseases. Sightsavers targets five NTDs that affect eyesight – trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis.

In 2016, the organization distributed almost 47 million treatments for river blindness. Further, it treated over 16.5 million people for intestinal worms and treated over 5.7 million people for schistosomiasis. Sightsavers aims to totally eliminate trachoma and lymphatic filariasis from its covered countries by 2020.

In 2016, Sightsavers and its partners distributed 154 million treatments for NTDs. Sightsavers facilitates initiatives that fight neglected tropical diseases in 29 developing countries.

Cataracts

Worldwide, 20 million people have lost vision due to cataracts. In some of the African countries covered by Sightsavers, 60 percent of cases of blindness are caused by cataracts.

Since the organization’s inception in 1950, Sightsavers has facilitated 6.6 million cataract surgeries. Furthermore, it has trained over 1,000 healthcare professionals to treat the condition. A child’s cataract surgery costs Sightsavers only $78.

Refractive Errors

Globally, 124 million people have untreated refractive errors like nearsightedness and astigmatism. Sightsavers has distributed almost three million pairs of eyeglasses in developing countries. Additionally, the organization trained 726 optometrists.

In 2016, Sightsavers’ School Health Integrated Programming (SHIP) initiative checked school-aged children in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Senegal and Ghana for poor eyesight. The program examined 57,400 children and provided 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses.

Advocacy

Worldwide, one billion people — 15 percent of the population — live with a disability. Eighty percent of disabled persons live in developing countries. In addition to protecting vision in developing countries through medical care, Sightsavers advocates for disability-inclusive development.

The organization’s “Put Us in The Picture” program has campaigned for incorporation of disabled persons in the development process since 2013. The initiative works to ensure that the needs of disabled residents of developing countries are considered in global development.

Sightsavers also advocates for equal access for disabled people to quality education and healthcare. The organization also works to ensure disabled people can find employment and participate in their political systems.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Braille Without Borders Is in DangerBraille Without Borders, the renowned school for the blind, is in danger of being shut down. The institution was co-founded in May 1998 by German born Sabriye Tenberken and Dutch born Paul Kronenberg in Tibet to empower students who are blind or visually impaired. A Tibetan agency wishes to discontinue integration training that helps blind people assimilate into society. No explanation has been given as to why.

Braille Without Borders is so named because its founders are determined to defy the odds. They hope to inspire blind and visually impaired children to overcome negative perceptions in society that prevent them from playing an active and inclusive role. To bring this to fruition, students are given a holistic education that encompasses academic and life skills.

The preparatory school that is in danger of closing teaches students how to read and write the Tibetan, Chinese and English Braille scripts. Students are also trained in different vocations such as animal husbandry, agriculture, market gardening, composting and working in the cheese industry. Through educating children holistically, the program ensures students can take control over their lives upon exiting.

Tenberken created Braille Without Borders out of frustration. She lost her sight at the age of 12 and decided at a young age, with support from her family, not to let society tell her what she is capable of. In a 2010 interview with Deutsche Welle, she stated that it angers her that impaired people are not taken seriously because others focus too much on the disability the person has.

Furthermore, prior to the program beginning, Tibetan blind children were social outcasts. People thought they were stupid or possessed by demons, and parents didn’t want to touch their own children. Tibetan citizens believed blindness was a curse from God because of an evil committed.

The success of the program has changed how the blind are perceived. Tenberken stated in the same interview that people stand up for the visually impaired now, as Braille Without Borders has been very successful in reducing the stigma against blind people and providing them with an education. No longer is it okay to call them blind fools. They are confident young people who contribute to society.

So far, the program has impacted the lives of 300 children ages six to 15. However, there is far more work to be accomplished. Statistics state 30,000 of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the Tibet Autonomous Region are blind or highly visually impaired. Compared to most areas in the world, this is above average. Climate and hygienic factors such as dust, wind, high ultra-violet light radiation, soot in houses caused by heating with coal and/or yak dung, and lack of vitamin A and D at an early age, contribute to the unusually high number of blind and visually impaired people in this region. A rehabilitation program for the blind and visually impaired is necessary to improve quality of life.

Braille Without Borders is in danger of closing if supporters do not act now. It has endured over the past 19 years due to donations and encouragement from people outside of Tibet. If the school is closed, Tenberken is gravely worried students will be sent to schools where they won’t receive training to become self-sufficient. Supporters can continue to aid the program’s efforts through donations. Learn more ways to help on the official website of Braille Without Borders.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Preventing Blindness in IndiaThe Artificial Learning System – also called Artelus, for short – is a newly-developed artificial intelligence (AI) designed for preventing blindness in India. The Artelus detects early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease found in diabetic patients which causes blindness.

India has a population of 69.2 million diabetics. Of these diabetic patients, an estimated 34.6 percent suffer from diabetic retinopathy. It can be treated if detected early, yet if it goes unnoticed, diabetic retinopathy will lead to irreversible blindness.

Yet with the strained healthcare system in India, diabetic retinopathy often goes untreated until it is too late. The doctor-to-patient ratio is tremendously low, with only one doctor for every 2,000 people. Artelus can take away the burden of diagnosing from doctors, allowing them the time to focus on treatments rather than examinations. This AI captures the patient’s retina image, analyzes it in less than 15 seconds and then prints the results.

Similarly, 70 percent of the Indian population lacks health insurance. This leaves billions unable to afford healthcare. Artelus is an affordable and accessible screening tool that provides results fast. With over a 93 percent accuracy rate, patients without health insurance save money on examinations and will be certain of when they need to spend money on treatment.

But how does the product work? The AI utilizes technologies like portable devices, cloud computing and deep learning. Deep learning uses algorithms inspired by the complex neural systems of the human brain. Thus, the AI will grow to perform better the more data it is given.

With the success of their first product, Artelus seeks to expand their AI screening tools even further. They are looking not only into preventing blindness in India through their diabetic retinopathy screening, but also plan to develop screening tools that can detect early tuberculosis, breast cancer and lung cancer. The company began with the dream of marrying AI with healthcare and look to be steadily on the way to accomplishing their goal, starting with the revolutionary Artelus.

Hannah Kaiser


Education is considered a fundamental human right, and yet most blind Indians are denied access to basic education. As a result, teaching professionals in India and nonprofits such as Sightsavers are taking action to ensure that blind people in India get the education they deserve.

India is home to the largest blind population on the planet. These 15 million blind people in India are often denied basic rights, as a majority of them live in poverty. According to experts, blindness is a major contributor to the poverty cycle. It is believed that there are currently more than two million blind children in India who are vulnerable to illiteracy and poverty, but only five percent of them receive any type of education.

The National Association for the Blind (India) states that it is working every day to bring more educational opportunities to blind people in India. In partnership with local volunteer organizations, NAB (India) has been able to initiate education for more than 5,000 children with vision loss. Additionally, NAB (India) tries to provide free Braille kits for blind students and is implementing a training center for teachers of those with vision loss.

Many blind Indians note that proper education has been one of the most important contributors to their success. National Geographic did a piece on an inspiring school in India that prepares blind youth for life. In this piece, the headmaster of a blind school in India states that “most of the visually impaired children come from such families where they are very, very neglected… as they’re neglected, we try to provide them love and affection [and] at the same time a training program to make them contributing to their family.”

A non-profit called Sightsavers is also working closely with schools and teachers in order to optimize curricula for blind children in India. Tools and technology are crucial to the success of a blind child’s education. These include physical aids (white canes, materials in Braille, etc.) and technology that is low-vision friendly. As a member of the Global Campaign for Education, Sightsavers works with local partners, where they help provide proper education materials and revise disability curricula. Sightsavers’ work ranges from one-on-one help all the way to regional advocacy.

Education is not only important to the success of blind people in India, but also a way to end vicious poverty cycles and bring about long-term happiness.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Smartphone App Blindness Kenya
The product of collaboration between The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a group of Kenyan doctors, The Portable Eye Examination Kit (or PEEK), is a smartphone app that promises to help deal with blindness in Kenya, Business Daily Africa reports.

According to PEEK’s official website, any smartphone equipped with the app can provide accurate eye tests by taking high quality photos of the retina. Such photos will enable an ophthalmologist to “view cataracts clearly enough for treatment classification, detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease.” The app displays its versatility in that it will also help doctors with identifying other health problems including “severe high blood pressure and diabetes.”

According to their website, PEEK’s developers believe that this advanced technology simplifies the process of retinal analysis, saving users considerable time and effort, compared to the traditional method of using an ophthalmoscope.

In a March 3 article, Ventures Africa reported that PEEK has recently been launched in the Trans-Nzoia county in Kenya. As it is explained later in the article, this particular county was chosen due to its high rate of vision problems. In an interview with Ventures Africa, one of the co-founders of the app Dr. Hillary Rono said that “out of the 2.5 million people in the region, 80 percent have eye problems that, if not checked, would lead to avoidable blindness.” More surprisingly, “five in every 1,000 people in the region are blind,” Dr. Rono continued.

PEEK has been brought to use in up to 350 schools in Trans-Nzoia, as reported by Business Daily Africa. Ventures Africa reports that “21,000 school children in the district and 900 were found visually impaired and were referred to the Kitale County Hospital Eye Unit for treatment.”

PEEK has already made considerable strides in combatting blindness in Kenya, and its developers hope to expand the project in the future. According to Business Daily Africa, the app is in line with Operation Eyesight and Christian Blind Mission, sponsored by the Standard Chartered Bank. The project has “helped to restore sight to more than 8,000 children,” said the bank’s chief executive Lamin Manjang. “The project has a target to reach 120 million people globally.”

Although considerable progress has been made in the fight against blindness in Kenya, much work remains to be done. “With around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 20 women color-blind, it’s important to be aware of what you can and can’t see,” says PEEK’s website. Developers are still exploring ways to add new capabilities to the app, including a wider range of color blindness and contrast tests.

Hoa Nguyen

Sources: Peek Vision, Business Daily Africa, Ventures Africa
Photo: TechIslet