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Health And Welfare

Make Vision Count campaign empowers over 54000 learners

Ster-Kinekor, the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla; UNICEF, together with other government, business and community leaders recently celebrated  World Sight Day, under the theme; “Make Vision Count” at Geluksdal Primere Skool in Brakpan, Ekurhuleni.

This forms part of Ster-Kinekor CSI programme, Vision Mission, and was aimed at shedding more insight on the importance of eye care amongst community members and young learners. Amongst the delegates were: MECs of Health and Basic Education, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa and representatives from the MEC of Education’s office .

This is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment through eye health screenings or eye examinations to promote early detection and treatment of vision disorders which could result to permanent vision loss. This year’s focus is on primary school learners whose uncorrected vision problems could impair child development and interfere with learning.

Since 2005, Ster-Kinekor has screened over 54 000 disadvantaged learners since 2005 with the assistance of the ophthalmic nurses in conjunction with the Department of Health and Department of Education. In addition, over the last few years, the Department, through its Integrated School Health Programme screened over 3.25 million children and 519 704 were referred for various health problems. Of these, 119 340 (23%) were found to have eye problems.

According to Dr Phaahla: Provision of eye health care services through vision screening and early detection are essential elements of a strong public health approach to vision and eye health, which is in line with the development imperatives of the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Health Insurance (NHI) priorities to promote quality of health. Sight plays an important role in the physical, cognitive and social development of the children.”

The Department is currently working on the second phase of the National Health Insurance (NHI). This is aimed at bringing the muchneeded universal access to health services to the broader South African Population. The second phase deals with the creation of the fund to support select health programmes including eye health services.

A successful case study of the Vision Mission programme is Philani Twala. Philani had Keratoconus, which is a degenerative disease of the cornea. It results in a thin and weak cornea. This affects vision, eventually resulting in someone requiring a cornea transplant. Philani had a weak cornea and minor trauma to his eye as a child when he was eight years old at school, resulted on tear in the weak cornea.

Philani received a precious gift of sight, through the Ster-Kinekor, CSI flagship programme ‘Vision Mission’, cinema-goers who donated R2.50 as well as Dr Akiel Asvat, the ophthalmologist who performed Philani’s second corneal transplant on a pro bono basis. This is something most of us take for granted, but a life-changing event for someone like Philani – is as simple as a donation from as little as R2.50.

“The partnership with Sterkinekor through its Vision Mission Project continues to assist government to deliver eye health services and has already reached over 300,000 children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds across the country who have benefitted from spectacles, squint operations and corneal transplants. This is a giant step in improving the health of South Africans,”

said the Chief Executive Officer of Sterkinekor Theatres, Mr. Wanda Matandela.

This important partnership encourages meaningful partnerships between corporates and government to provide continuous life changing services to school learners which contribute towards the improvement of their quality of life as visual impairment in children also present a significant barrier to learning.

“To deliver optimum eye care services to school learners through raising awareness of eye health screenings and access to assistive devices is pivotal for us as an organization and we appreciate the Department’s commitment to the eye health care agenda,”

concludes Matandela.

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