Restoring Sight in Alale
Reaching the marginalised communities
Sun scorched earth characterised by dry shrubs and bare land stands out in Alale town. Alale is in Pokot, Western Kenya close to the Kenya/Uganda border. The population of this town is approximately 55,000. Temporary plastic bag shelters and herds of cattle are evident, together with the long distances between villages as you move from area to area. The people here mainly live a nomadic lifestyle and this limits their to access medical or educational services. A child guiding an elderly man or woman with a long stick is a telling story. It is a picture seen from time to time in this area.
Trachoma haunts Alale as a number have succumbed to it and are blind. Many children are now burdened with the care for elderly relatives with blindness. Amos Limo, a trained ophthalmic nurse from CBM’s partner Sabatia Eye Hospital visits remote villages in towns like Alale screening patients and referring cases for surgery.
Training nurses like Amos facilitates early detection of diseases like glaucoma, trachoma or conjunctivitis. It paves the way for treatment when help is still possible, before they reach an advanced irreversible stage. “Because of the training nurses eye care has improved in areas like Alale. Now we are reaching many people giving them opportunity to access basic health care,” Amos reports. “Since January, 211 people were screened and 32 found to have cataracts and treated. A number were suffering from trachoma,” he adds.
Training more ophthalmic staff
CBM together with her partners are playing a leading role in combating blindness in the country. Outreach services from base hospitals such as Sabatia Eye Hospital, PCEA Kikuyu Eye Unit , Tenwek Hospital Eye Unit and Kwale District Eye Centre are reaching many in remote and inaccessible areas promoting primary eye care services.
To improve access to primary eye care for rural communities, CBM supported Sabatia Eye Hospital in developing and offering the Ophthalmic Skills upgrade course. This course aims at equipping nurses just like Amos with the relevant knowledge and capability to screen and detect early signs of preventable eye diseases. Since the 1990s this type of training has been offered by another of CBM’s partners PCEA Kikuyu Eye Unit, located on the outskirts of Nairobi. At Sabatia Eye Hospital, the course began in 2008.
Together, both training courses have graduated about 200 nurses and Clinical Officers. CBM envisions training 30-50 people per year. Other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Medical Services, Provincial Medical Director, faith based eye care providers and the communities are actively involved. Training nurses like Amos has been a boost to treatment of visual impairments in rural Kenya.