Impact of blindness and the first 1000 days Impact of blindness and the first 1000 days

Impact of blindness and the first 1000 days

What is most important to babies’ growth in their first 1000 days? Is it sleep, milk or love from parents? These are all correct. On the other hand, parents should also know that good eye sight is also vital to healthy child development. 

Almost three quarters of a child’s early learning is through vision. Having good vision allows a baby to learn to craw and walk. It also increase his or her ability to explore the world around them. 

However, children with blindness often become isolated from other children and are more likely to develop emotional and behavioural problems. In many low income countries, a child with blindness will miss out on going to school. 

Children of different age may develop different kinds of eye problems:

Age Case of vision loss
0-5 Amblyopia
Birth and early childhood Cataract 
8-10 Myopia
0-5 Hyperopia
Premature babies Retinopathy of prematurity
0-5 Trachoma

Every minute, a child somewhere in the world goes blind. The types of eye disease troubling children in different parts of the world also vary. 

While cataract and corneal scarring from vitamin A deficiency and measles remain significant causes of childhood blindness among the poorest and most marginalised populations of Africa and Asia, retinopathy of prematurity has become a leading cause of blindness among very young children in middle income countries. 

In East Asia, myopia is the major issue as a result of intensive education system and prevailing indoor lifestyle. Research says that by the time students leave school, 80-90% of students in urban China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have myopia. 

Figures from The World Health Organization show that among the 19 million children who have visual impairment, refractive error accounts for 12 million or 63%. 

The story of Nabiritha

When Nabiritha was four months old, her mother Emily already discovered that there was something unusual about her eyes. Emily said, “I realised that she would not notice me when I passed by but immediately started crying when she heard my voice. She also couldn’t pick up toys that I placed besides her to play with.”

The days of Nabiritha could be lonely. When other children were playing outside, she had to listen to music alone at home. 

Emily tried all means for years to seek help and treatment for Nabiritha. In the end she found out that Nabiritha had cataract. It was a race against time to restore her sight.  Surgeries for children with cataract are essential better before the brain completes its development. A lack of normal visual stimulation limits the brain’s ability to ever process visual stimuli. 

With help from The Fred Hollows Foundation, Nabiritha underwent surgery successfully and could see again. 

I want to go back to school so that I can learn how to read and write and see my friends.
- Nabiritha
Story of Jie-jin

Twenty-six year old Jie-qin Wang is a nurse at The Binchuan People’s Hospital in Yunnan, China. One of her jobs is to do eye screening for school children. She said that for some students and their families at the grass root level did not understand the importance of protecting eyes. Even if students have myopia their families might not allow them to wear glasses nor seek medical help.

Jie-jin recalled that she faced similar questions with wearing glasses. When she was in her early secondary school years, short-sightedness made her unable to see the blackboard clearly. She wanted to have a pair of glasses, but her parents said no.

“They thought once I started wearing glasses, I would have to wear them for the rest of my life.

“When I wore the glasses to visit my grandmother in a very old village, people looked at me as if I was a monster and gossiped about my glasses.” 

That was the start of Jie-qin’s determination to help people change their minds towards eye care.

I wish I can change the out-dated ideas of people.
- Jie-qin Wang

 

Work of The Fred Hollows Foundation 
The earlier a child has sight-saving treatment the more likely it will be successful and a better quality of vision can be restored. The Fred Hollows Foundation improves children’s eye health through the following ways:
 
  • Improve eye check services for newborns at maternal clinics 
  • Support cataract surgeries for children
  • Introduce school-based eye health schemes in low and middle income countries and provide glasses to school children in need of them.
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