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Nine million Kenyans are in need of eye care services

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Approximately nine million Kenyans are in need of eye care services, Health Ministry officials said on Friday.

Michael Gichangi, head of ophthalmic services unit at the Ministry of Health, told Xinhua in Nairobi that people seek eye care services due to short sightedness, difficulty in reading or having an eye disease.

“Due to concentration of services in major urban towns, only two million people can access eye care services,” Gichangi said during the eye camp for school children with albinism.

Over 100 Albino children received free eye checkup and free prescription glasses.

According to the Ministry of Health, approximately 200,000 people are blind.

Gichangi said that there is poor uptake of eye care services due to lack of awareness of the availability of the services.

Gichangi added that age-related cataract is one of the leading causes of blindness in Kenya. Other causes include albinism, trachoma and childhood blindness.

He observed that the number of blind people in Kenya is likely to increase due to the rising life expectancy.

“As one grows older, there is increased cloudiness of the lense of the eye and this could lead to blindness if not detected early,” he said.

The ministry has launched a specific strategy to deal with preventable causes of blindness such as trachoma.

Gichangi said that visual impairment among the albino community is also very prevalent.

Prabha Choksey, the founder of the Dr Choksey Albinism Foundation, said that over 90 percent of children with albinism have some form of visual impairment due to lack of pigment in their eyes.

“As a result, majority of albino are enrolled in blind schools because of sight problems,” Choksey added.

She called for all relevant stakeholders to collaborate so that albinos can be provided with prescription glasses at an early age in order to improve their sight.



Kenya plans regulations to promote use of sign language

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to put in place regulations to promote the use of local sign language, officials said on Thursday.

Peter Musakhi, senior assistant director of the ministry of labor and social protection, told a forum for in Nairobi that the government has already formed a multi-agency committee to spearhead the development of draft regulations to enhance the Kenya Sign Language.

“Once stakeholders have agreed to the regulations, it will be presented to parliament for endorsement so as to promote use of sign language,” Musakhi said during the Kenyan Sign Language Interpreter Standards forum.

Musakhi said that the regulations will enable Kenya to meet both local and international obligations.

“Once in place, the laws will enhance access to information by the deaf population so that those with hearing impairment can enjoy full access to their rights,” Musakhi said.

The east African nation ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 which requires countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination against disabled people.

In addition, the 2010 constitution calls for Kenya to promote use of sign language so that the deaf have access to information.

Musakhi noted that in order to promote access to information to the deaf, the law requires television programs to incorporate use of sign language interpreters.

According to government data, about 800,000 Kenyan have one form of hearing impairment or another.

Musakhi said that the regulations will also promote the employment of sign language interpreters in government departments.

“The deaf people cannot access critical public services due to lack of sign interpreters in judiciary and other government offices,” he said.

The official said that the regulations will ensure that disability issues are mainstreamed so that public resources are allocated towards people with disability.

He noted that there is insufficient funds to cater for education of deaf students in most public schools while private schools are beyond the reach of most parents with deaf children.

“The government is ready to partner with donors to ensure that deaf children have access quality education from an early age,” he added.



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