The biggest cause of blindness worldwide is easily preventable by providing spectacles. Yet worldwide approximately 625 million people, of which around 84 million in Africa, are unnecessary blind or have bad sight, because they don’t have access to this relatively inexpensive solution.
The goal of The Optical Foundation is to make eye case accessible in the developing world through screening, education and research.
The optical foundation is a non-profit organisation, which was founded in 2004 with the mission of making eye care accessible for everyone in Ghana, especially for children. The Optical Foundation focuses specifically on children, because any untreated eye disorder can greatly impact their educational development and early detection can prevent illiteracy.
A child, who as a result of the screening is found to need glasses, can purchase these for a symbolic amount of 1 Euro from The Optical Foundation. Rather than giving the glasses for free, The Optical Foundation charges a means tested amount for the spectacles. The philosophy behind charging money for the glasses is: if something is given for free, then there is no real understanding of its value – thinking their glasses can easily be replaced at no cost, they may not treat the glasses with the required care, nor understand the importance of the screenings. In this processed, The Optical Foundation also contributes to and stimulates the local economy, by having the glasses made there.
The Optical Foundation does an extensive eye examination during their screenings. An eye test includes: visual acuity assessment, the refractive error and binocular vision measures, and assessment of the eyelids, cornea, crystalline lens, and the retina. The screenings are this extensive, as for many children this is their first ever eye examination.
Most children screened by us have healthy eyes, but there is a notable percentage who face severe eye problems. In the Netherlands, these eye defects are usually detected at the Early Childhood Centre, but since there are no such clinics in Ghana, we are often the first to detect serious eye defects. It is important to detect these eye disorders at an early age, as they are still treatable then. The longer one waits with treatment, the worse the prognosis.