Uganda’s senior population can expect to receive free eye exams with their pensions come the end of May. They can get free medication for ailments like trachoma (which can lead to blindness if left untreated) and can be referred for surgery if they suffer from something that requires surgical intervention, like cataracts. Uganda’s Expanding Social Protection program will provide the service through Sightsaver’s Coordinated Approach to Community Health (or CATCH) and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative. The latter, in addition to some aid provided by the United Kingdom, has helped thousands of people with eyes problems get surgery to better the quality their lives, Johnson Ngorok notes. He’s the Sightsavers Uganda Country Director.
The Expanding Social Protection program has been around since 2010, providing a social pension called the senior citizens grant to elderly individuals over the age of 65; the age is lower (at 60 years) for those in Uganda’s poorest Karamoja region. It is funded through the nation’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, as well as aid from the United Kingdom and the Irish.
Sightsavers and their partners chose to give these free eye exams particularly to people over the age of 65 because, out of the total population, they are at the most risk of developing eye ailments as it is common for the elderly to encounter such problems. It’s even more risky for those who do not have regular access to health care services and checkups that could detect diseases, preferably in their early stages, and also provide treatment. Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr. Astrid Bonfield, acknowledged the joint efforts of the Uganda government, and that of the United Kingdom, for their efforts shown through humanitarian programs like Sightsaver’s CATCH to provide care to those with eye ailments and also preventing the unnecessary progression of diseases–most notably, trachoma.
The head of Uganda’s Expanding Social Protection program, Stephen Kasaija, recognized that there are senior citizens who could benefit from the social program’s pension and free eye care who are unable to reach them because of some disability, which is why they are seeking partnerships that would help connect qualified individuals to the service.