UMZUMBE, KWAZULU NATAL – Nissan South Africa (Nissan SA) has handed over a mobile eye care clinic to the Africa office of ICEE, an international non-profit, non governmental organisation whose aim is to prevent avoidable blindness and uncorrected refractive error in needy communities. ICEE is currently engaged in a 'Giving Sight to South Africa' project to detect, diagnose and manage ocular conditions such as refractive error, cataract and glaucoma. The mobile eye care clinic will especially assist ICEE's National Child Eye Care Programme, which is developing and implementing a national child eye health programme for South African school children.

ICEE has embarked on a pilot project in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), where school health teams currently reach only 40 percent of primary school children between the ages of five and seven. Focusing initially on one province is giving ICEE the opportunity to identify and remedy any inherent problems before rolling the programme out nationally. In accepting the mobile unit at Sosukwana Primary School in Ugu, Umzumbe, ICEE's Global Programmes Director, Professor Kovin Naidoo, said that the resource would assist their efforts significantly.  "One problem we have identified is that many rural schoolchildren are unable to access their nearest clinic, often located many miles from their homes, because they cannot afford the trip. The mobile eye care unit is an invaluable resource in that it will allow us to take eye screening facilities to the children at their respective schools."

The Nissan Interstar vehicle, which has been converted to accommodate the necessary eye screening equipment (phoropters, projection charts, and biomicroscopes), will be manned by an ICEE-appointed optometrist. Following screening and examination, children with reduced vision on account of refractive error (usually short- or long- sightedness) are provided with free prescription spectacles by ICEE while those with ocular disease are referred to an ophthalmologist.

Nissan's Managing Director Julio Panama said the company was delighted to partner with ICEE and to assist in the NGO's efforts to ensure all South African children receive adequate eye care. "When one considers the huge discrepancy between the 'haves' and 'have nots' in our country today, this gesture is the least we can do. We trust that the mobile eye care unit will add to ICEE's present resources and be instrumental in making some impact towards ensuring that all school children in KwaZulu Natal will be reached under the Child Eye Care Programme."

In stressing the dire need for eye care in children, Professor Naidoo added: "Previous studies reveal that most of the children being prescribed with prescription glasses in the KZN Child Eye Care Programme had never previously been examined. These children accounted for 19% – four out of every five children – blind or visually impaired from refractive error in KZN. If uncorrected, these children face unnecessary visual impairment which impacts on their quality of life and access to education."

Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed today by both parties, Nissan SA will undertake to pay the salary of the onboard optometrist as well as the vehicle's operating costs. Thereafter the mobile eye care unit will become the property of ICEE who will assume full responsibility for the vehicle.

Nissan SA anticipates that it will make available to ICEE two further mobile eye care units between 2008 and 2010, for use in its Child Eye Care Programme in other provinces.

The mobile eye care clinic handover forms part of Nissan SA's corporate social investment programme which is dedicated to aspects of educational, environmental and humanitarian enhancement. Today's event at Sosukwana Primary also provided Nissan an opportunity to provide all 348 learners with school bags under its adbag campaign, which provides needy children with school bags made from recycled billboard material.

 

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