KENYA – The Kenyan Government plans to invest KES3 billion (US$26M) in healthcare to develop Centres of Excellence for eye, hearing and dental care at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital as well as County Referral Hospitals of Mombasa, Nyeri, Meru and Kisii.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe revealed that out of the 7.5 million persons who are in need of eye care services in Kenya, 250,000 are blind while another 750,000 have difficulties in seeing clearly.

Kagwe further disclosed about 100,000 children have significant refractive errors requiring spectacles out of the 10.4 million children enrolled in Primary schools in Kenya with only about 37,000 children able to access spectacles to allow them to engage meaningfully in schooling.

The main causes of vision impairment include age related cataract and refractive errors such as short sightedness, long sightedness, common among school going children with Cataract Surgery being one of the most cost-effective health interventions which transforms life.

Consequently, the Government has launched the Vision Impact Project (VIP) which integrates into the National Eye Health strategy with an aim to improve health systems for eye health.

The Vision Impact Project involves community and school screening for eye diseases and conditions, provision of spectacles for children, sight restoration interventions like cataract surgery for the blind and rehabilitation of those that cannot have their sight restored.

The vision project will further contribute to the National Health Sector Plan, Health Systems Strengthening National Vision 2030 economic strategy and ultimately to the health-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

During the launch of Vision Impact Project, Mutahi Kagwe estimated that that an input of KES 2.2billion (US$19M) through the Vision impact project shall bring back KES 8.8 billion (US$76M) profit equivalent in the project period if resources are used efficiently.

It is clear in my mind that investing in eye health is cost effective and will always be required especially now that our ageing population is growing,” the Health Cabinet Secretary stated.

He advised Kenyans to take advantage of the availability of eye health resources in the health system to ensure that all eye health needs are met while calling upon County governments to consider investing in eye health.

For students who experience difficulties in seeing the black board, if you are diabetic and even Kenyans with no vision problems need to have eyes examined and appropriate treatment given as it is now available,” he added.

Kagwe further urged patients whose doctors previously recommended cataract surgery to seek medical attention with immediate effect since facilities are currently well-equipped with necessary machines to provide high quality surgery.

The government is committed to increase coverage of good sight-restoring cataract surgery by 30 per cent and to increase coverage of good vision care services for refractive errors by 40 per cent,” he explained.

Additonally , he recommended the Peek Technology smart phone mobile application which is easy to use by non-medical workers to screen school children and community members for eye diseases and even link them to the very scarce eye specialists.

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