A day of free ophthalmologic consultations was held on September 25, 2014 in the health center of Keur Thieme Saware, a village of about a thousand inhabitants in Thiès, Senegal. The event was the fruit of a partnership between Tostan and the Lions Club, a service organization. Tostan was in charge of logistics while the Lions Club took care of consultations and the distribution of medicine. About 70 patients had enrolled themselves to receive free healthcare. Among them were people from Keur Thième Sawaré and Keur Mor Ndiaye, a nearby village. Both villages had participated in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) and the post-CEP Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module, which they completed in May 2014. 

Whether it was glaucoma, presbyopia, conjunctivitis, cataract, no vision problem escaped the expert eye of Dr. Niang. People of all ages benefited from these free check-ups.

Keur Thième Sawaré was chosen to host the event because it has electricity, which is necessary to operate the ophthalmic examination equipment. The village is also easily accessible from Thiès, and its Community Management Committee (CMC) is very dynamic. The CMC had expressed the need for such a day through its Health Commission. A few years ago, the CMC took all the necessary steps to build a functional health hut, and they recruited a midwife and paid her a salary. It was also the CMC that selected community members who needed healthcare the most, allowing them to pay only 100 CFA ($0.20 dollars). The Lions Club will donate all fees back to the health center for the purchase of equipment and medication.

In a previous partnership between the Lions Club and Tostan in 2011, the Lions Club distributed 3,579 pairs of glasses to members of Tostan’s partner communities who were in need. Due to a lack of adequate funds to pay for the hospital consultation fees of 15,000 FCFA (the equivalent of $30 dollars) and for medication, they found that many community members let their vision problems worsen. After her consultation with Dr. Niang, Absa Sawaré explained: “When I went to the hospital in Thiès, they diagnosed me with a cataract and was prescribed some medication. But the medication was too expensive, and therefore I could not renew them. Here, Dr. Niang discovered that it was actually a blood pressure problem. He prescribed medication to take on a daily basis that is much cheaper, and then gave me his number [in case I had an emergency].”

Mbacké Sylla, the 87 year old imam of the village of Keur Thième Sawaré, who is also head of the Education Commission of the CMC, explained that the community had been waiting a long time for these consultations; many members of the older population suffer from poor eyesight, and surprisingly, as do younger men and women. “It is also an opportunity to do prevention in order to try and avoid as much as possible these types of vision problems,” he said.

The chief doctor of the Thiès health district praised the dynamism of this community and their plea to the Ministry of Health to establish a health post in Keur Thieme Saware. The President of the Lions Club of Thiès, Mr. Faye, also expressed satisfaction with the cooperation with Tostan and recalled that the two organizations had the same vision: dignity for all.

On October 8, Dr. Niang and his team will return to the village for more consultations, to follow up with previous patients and donate eyeglasses and medicines to community members.