According to Life Healthcare, the World Health Organisation estimates that around 253 million people globally live with vision impairment, 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment. In South Africa vision impairment is one of the prevalent disabilities (32%) and it is projected that 97% of all blind and partially sighted people in the country are unemployed.
The healthcare outfit also indicated that the top three causes of blindness worldwide are cataracts which accounts for 39.1% of global blindness, uncorrected refractive errors which accounts for 18.2% of global blindness, and glaucoma which accounts for 10.1% of global blindness.
And this is exactly what Nomfundo Mkhombe wanted to avoid when she hosted this year’s ‘Eye Care Awareness Month’ under the ophthalmic sciences department at the Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT). Miss Mkhombe, a qualified optometrist herself and currently a lecturer at the CPUT, together with a team of 32 second-year opticianry students conducted free eye screenings and assisted with eye care health for residents from Joe Slovo, Dunoon and Bishop Lavis.
Not only did Miss Mkhombe and her team of young and enthusiastic students conducted the screenings but they also assisted by referring residents to venues where they can get their spectacles free of charge. She says in addition to marking ‘Eye Care Awareness Month’ the event is also used as a platform to promote ‘Service-Learning Initiative’ among the students at the institution.
The idea is to expose the students to different sectors in their profession, says Miss Mkhombe. This will empower them, she adds, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the unique eye care challenges experienced by underserviced communities and to develop sensitivity towards patients. “This project will assist the students to gain an understanding of working in the public health sector,” adds Miss Mkhombe, who also holds a Masters’ degree in public health.
Other specialists also took part in the event:
- a gynaecologist who gave a talk on family planning
- a registered psychological counsellor who gave an address on mental health issues
- a health and fitness instructor who shared ideas on nutrition and how to eat a balanced diet and
- health officers from the local Dunoon Clinic and Bishop Lavis Clinic also provided health checks.
Miss Mkhombe says in the course of providing these services they ensured that all the Covid-19 protocols were strictly adhered to. The venue was also large enough to accommodate approximately 250 people and 72 people who attended the event were able to observe social distancing.
Says Miss Mkhombe: “There were also stations that were placed outside in an open area. Each person entering the venue had their temperature checked, and their hands sanitised. Social distancing was implemented, where people were encouraged to stand or sit at least 1 meter away from each other. All people had to wear a mask inside and outside the venues. Each time a person went to a different station, they had to sanitise their hands.”