In Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, close to 80% of the population lives in rural areas, depends on subsistence farming and survives on less than $2 per day. Since Malagasies rely on the productive ability of their family unit, the fact that 140,000 children in Madagascar are blind or visually impaired adds a significant burden to their already difficult lives.

Since 2009, Seva’s Malagasy partners have offered pediatric services, yet have struggled to find children with eye problems and convince families to use their services, even when offered free of charge. Seva’s partners in Antsinanana and Antananarivo, and more recently in Sava and Antsirabe, have been using an innovative outreach strategy whereby a network of community workers, called Key Informants (KIs), are trained to find and refer children who need eye care. This strategy involves holding a training session on basic eye conditions, asking newly trained KIs to travel through their villages to identify children with eye problems and ensure the children they identify are brought to an upcoming outreach camp to receive the care they need.

key to kids, Seva, madagascar

©Ellen Crystal Photography

At each outreach camp, about 1/3 of these children are treated immediately with medicine, glasses, and other simple procedures, 1/3 are brought back to the local eye hospital for further treatment, and 1/3 are sent to the capital, Antananarivo, for specialty care. This results in hundreds of children being able to see each year, simply by providing basic knowledge and leveraging existing relationships to help the community help itself.

This year, each of our sites in Madagascar are doubling their outreach program and expect to:

  • Train 575 Key Informants
  • Examine over 3,000 children referred by Key informants
  • Operate on 110 blind children
  • Provide 800 eyeglasses for children with severe low vision
  • Rehabilitate 30 children with untreatable low vision

Seva is also acting as a mentor to its Malagasy partners by helping them to collect data on their KI program in order to publish and share their findings with eye care programs across the globe. By continuing to pilot new strategies and by measuring and sharing success, Seva is helping to ensure that families in Madagascar and beyond have a better chance to succeed, now and into the future.

key to kids, Seva, madagascar

Dr. Richard, a Malagasy Ophthalmologist, examines pediatric patients found by a Key Informant ©Ellen Crystal Photography

Read the full Fall 2016 Eye Contact Newsletter. 

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