Eye health has such a crucial part in a child’s development, from participation in school to enjoying their hobbies, yet 80% of preschoolers do not receive ophthalmological screenings. If 1 in 20 young children has a vision problem that can lead to blindness and 80% of visual impairments can be prevented or corrected, why have we neglected children’s vision around the world? Many factors, including some we take for granted, prevent families from seeking help in time, rendering kids unable to partake in many everyday childhood activities. NYXT content partner Orbis International deploys its team of volunteer doctors to fly around the world to help those in need of eye care they cannot easily access, and as August is Children’s Eye Health Month, it is important to spotlight innovators in sight restoration.
Water is life. Not only do all forms of life require it to sustain them, humans require water to maintain sanitary conditions, which is difficult in places without clean water readily available. We must remember that undrinkable water is not just a third-world problem: as we have seen in Flint, Michigan and with the threat of privatized water systems in America, anyone can be at risk for lacking a basic human right: potable water. In developing countries, not only are water-borne diseases from infected water a threat, but with decreased hygiene from unsanitary water, citizens are subject to debilitating eye diseases that may exclude them from school and jobs, resulting in a lesser quality of life. For the children of Ethiopia, many suffer from trachoma, a condition that causes the eyelid to turn inward and eyelashes to scratch the cornea, which makes it difficult to participate in an active lifestyle. Not only does Orbis’ doctors treat these patients, but they also work to instill programs within each community to enhance access to water and medicine.
Strabismus, a condition wherein eyes focus in different directions, commonly affects children and can lead to permanent blindness. Our eyes send signals of images to our brains, but through time, the brain will ignore the image of the weaker eye, causing vision loss. Orbis chronicles the progress of a Chinese girl afflicted with strabismus, whose love of creating art has been impeded because of her disability. With a simple surgery, not only does she return to her hobbies but her quality of life increased as she was no longer bullied for her condition, and her improved eye health had an impact on her education.
Glaucoma and cataracts are some of the most common forms of eye impairment. Called “the sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma results from increased pressure to the optic nerve that causes damage and eventual loss of vision, while cataracts can be caused by profound physical trauma and can lead to permanent damage. Commonly believed to be a condition that primarily targets the elderly, children are definitely susceptible. Remarkably, 40% of eyesight can be lost from glaucoma before notice, and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. That’s why early detection for children especially is imperative; these curable conditions can have lifelong, devastating consequences and is devastating to children’s development.
Meet Theresa, a girl from a small town in Zambia, who had to endure significant travel with her family for the nearest available eye doctor to treat her double cataracts. Her eye condition affected her reading and schoolwork, and was a detriment to her education. Through Orbis, she was able to receive the care that was difficult to find, and resume a happy life.
But for many kids, blindness is inevitable, and those with visual disabilities deserve the highest care possible and an education that caters to their special needs. That’s why programs like Inside Schools provide guides for parents of school-aged children, specifically those parents of visually-impaired children who are in dire need of schools where they can achieve and educators who will root for their success. Eye healthcare for children not only treats physical needs but emotional and educational needs as well.
This August, NYXT encourages parents of the young to screen their kids early for potentially devastating eye conditions, as prevention is the best medicine when it comes to your kid’s health! Interested in getting involved with Orbis’ work in spreading the gift of eyesight? Visit their website for more information on volunteering and you can donate to their organization here.
Subscribe to the NYXT newsletter
Learn about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and new organizations looking for your help.