Our latest update in Sierra Leone

During the month of March 2022, volunteer Jonathan Hall travelled to Sierra Leone to deliver workshops focused on the detection of glaucoma to eye health workers. In Sierra Leone, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. There, the disease is aggressive, and clinics often see young patients already totally blind from it, and sometimes see different generations of the same family blind from this disease.


Whilst there, Jonathan visited Vision Centres in Kailahun, Koidu and Makeni to complete training on the business model of the Vision Centre, which he has been delivering remotely. Over few weeks, each of the Vision Centres hosted awareness events to publicise eye care services available to the community. The training Jonathan delivered is supporting a wider project, “Essential Community Eye Care Services in Eastern and Northern Provinces, Sierra Leone”, jointly funded by Optometry Giving Sight, Fundación Visión Mundi, and Jonathan Hall Opticians.

During the pandemic, Jonathan was able to help remotely (online) and trained people overseas, like Benjamin Kanneh and Philip KargboBusiness, in the Business of the Eyecare Service course. Thanks to online remote training, the courses were successfully delivered and eyecare workers were trained in Sierra Leone. Fast forward to 2022, and Jonathan was able to keep supporting rural communities, this time face to face, in Vision Centres across Sierra Leone for the detection of glaucoma. There, he met again with Rachel, a patient he has seen two years back, and he was hoping to see her following her much needed treatment. In words of Jonathan: “Back in 2019, I examined a young girl called Rachel and found her to be suffering from glaucoma at the tender age of just 16. I told her the importance of taking eye drops every day for the rest of her life to lower the pressure in her eyes and save her eyesight. Although she understood, I was not convinced that she would be able to access the medication consistently. Imagine how pleased I was when she appeared at the Vision Aid Overseas eyecare event that I was overseeing back at the same hospital. She not only remembered our talk but also had been careful to make sure she obtained and instilled her eye drops daily since then. Even better was that the eye drops had worked to reduce her eye pressure and prevent her losing sight.”

Training people locally to help their communities is a goal to always keep in mind, to allow remote areas with no previous access to high quality equipment and training to sustain themselves in the future. As well as training people overseas, supplying necessary equipment to perform eye tests and help with early detection of misfortunes like glaucoma enable rural areas to have the right of accessible eye health.

As well as hosting workshops in Sierra Leone, Jonathan Hall Opticians provided local communities with portable retinal cameras, a technology that takes a picture of the back of a patient’s eye, which allows to keep track of someone’s eye health much easier and more accurately. To also enable existing eye clinics supported by Vision Aid Overseas to keep thriving, Jonathan Hall Opticians introduced autorefractors, a technology that will allow eye care workers to quickly detect if a patient needs prescribed glasses and what prescription they will require – poverty eye health also impacts on the amount of qualified optometrists that are available in inaccessible areas, meaning that new technology will significantly transform and improve waiting times and access to those in need of a pair of glasses.

To support eye health across Africa and to help the world to see, you can donate today to allow Vision Aid Overseas to keep delivering training and strengthen Vision Centres in countries like Ghana, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. It is thanks to your support that we can help others better their life conditions - no one lives in poverty because of poor eyesight, and no one lives with poor eyesight because of poverty. We enable people in need to access affordable glasses and eye care. According to the World Health Organization, restoring sight is one of the most cost-effective health interventions to reduce poverty.

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Following a skills assessment, Patricia Tarawally and Musa Conteh, Optometry Technicians based at Kenema Vision Centre, Sierra Leone, received training on Paediatric Optometry in December 2020. Working remotely with UK volunteer Optometrists, Kath Stott and Jonathan Hall, a training program was designed to develop Patricia’s and Musa’s existing skills and was delivered by Optometrist Ninimba Lebbie, who practices in Bo, Sierra Leone. The training included practical optical skills and classroom training on Paediatric Optometry topics, child safeguarding in an eye health setting, and communication.

At the end of the course both Patricia and Musa had improved skills that will be utilised when examining children during the School Eye Health Programme clinics and at the vision centre. Further training is planned for March 2021 and Ninimba, Kath and Jonathan are busy creating materials for this next part of this course.

This training was part of a school eye health programme that Vision Aid Overseas is running in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone, which by the end of the 2-year programme will have screened over 44,000 children for refractive error and eye diseases.

This course and the wider school eye health programme in Sierra Leone was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).