LONDON, United Kingdom – The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development has invested £250,000 in the British charity Vision For A Nation that will provide new adjustable glasses to all Rwandans over eight years of age. The glasses are focused with an adjustable dial and cost only £1 per pair. Vision for a Nation is a program that is working to make eyeglasses universally accessible, starting in Rwanda.
The program will train Health Centre nurses across Rwanda, giving them the capacity to conduct vision tests and provide eyeglasses to those who need them. Two types of glasses will be provided: adjustable glasses and reading glasses. Adjustable glasses can be used to correct short-sightedness and far-sightedness, while reading glasses benefit those who are unable to focus up close. The two meet the vision correction needs of the majority.
Rwanda was chosen as the first destination for Vision for a Nation because the country has only 4 optometrists and 10 ophthalmologists for a population of 10 billion. The country, however, has strong political support for development, and aims to become a middle-income country by the year 2020. This makes Rwanda a priority among donors and an ideal candidate for the Vision for a Nation program. Furthermore, Rwanda has a strong network of approximately 60,000 community health workers, as well as teachers, that can be best placed to promote eye care in their own villages and schools. This will prove to be an important advantage when it comes to achieving a nationwide screening program.
Almost 85 percent of Rwanda’s population live in rural areas where eye care services are extremely limited. Along with this, 57 percent of Rwandans live below the poverty line, making eyeglasses a far-off dream for most. The Ministry of Health of the Government of Rwanda, in support of the global initiative of ‘Vision2020—the Right to Sight,’ is dedicated to universal eyeglasses coverage as laid out in its National Plan for Eliminating Needless Blindness.
The ultimate goal of Vision for a Nation in Rwanda is to conduct a vision assessment of all people aged 8 years and older and provide eyeglasses to those who need them by 2015. The project is being conducted in three phases:
• Phase One (August 2010-September 2011): Work to establish the best distribution method. During this period, 2,038 Rwandans had their vision screened with more than 700 receiving eyeglasses.
• Phase Two (March 2012-June 2013): Establish health centers countrywide as the base of operations where vision correction is offered. Estimated that 425,000 Rwandans aged 8 and above will receive free vision assessments, with as many as 30,000 pairs of eyeglasses provided.
• Phase Three (2013-2015): Groundwork laid out in Phase Two will be built on so all Rwandans will be covered by 2015.
– Ali Warlich