Silhouette sponsors eye clinic in West Africa

Eyewear company has been sponsoring eye clinic in Burkino Faso that now treats 60-70 patients each day

10 Apr 2017 by Florence Adu-Yeboah

A child having an eye test at the clinic in Burkino FasoSilhouette International has been sponsoring the construction of an eye-care clinic in Kongoussi, in Burkino Faso, West Africa, since 2008. 

Silhouette optometrist, Bettina Hochwimmer, has travelled there regularly, with a group of doctors and medical specialists and following investment by Silhouette International, they have been able to build an eye clinic and treat patients.

Ms Hochwimmer spoke to OT about the work carried out as part of the project. 

What can you tell us about Burkino Faso and the people who live there?

Burkino Faso is a West African state that lies to the south of a bend in the river Niger, and has borders with Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. 

It’s one of the poorest countries in the world and is home to more than 16 million people. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line and 70% are illiterate. A fluctuating climate with regular periods of drought has resulted in a great deal of hardship for the population, who are predominantly farmers. However, we always get a warm reception and the Burkinas are very hospitable people, despite their extreme poverty. 

Optometrist, Bettina Hochwimmer, pictured (second from left) with the eye clinic staff in Burkino Faso

What has been achieved in recent years due to Silhouette’s support?

To start with it was just myself and eye specialist, Dr Ulrike Nessner, and working in a small room without an operating room or assistants. With Silhouette International’s support, we were able to build a functioning eye clinic with a well-equipped operating room. Funding for staff training was also provided, and now the eye clinic is open all year round.

What happens on a typical day at the eye clinic?

Typically, every place in the waiting room is taken from early in the morning and we treat between 60-70 patients every day. There is a gold mine in the local town and many of the patients work there as miners without protection – because of this many of the patients that we see have severe eye problems.

Children outside the eye clinic in Burkino Faso

How can people help?

People can support the eye clinic by donating any of their old, unused glasses to the Silhouette glasses shop in Linz. It doesn’t matter about the strength of the lenses, or the fit of the frames, these can be adapted to the patients in Africa according to their needs. People could also sponsor a child. 100 Euros is enough to send a child to school for a whole year, including a hot meal prepared for them every day. Some of our colleagues already have sponsorship and we would be really grateful for further support.

Last year instead of sending out Christmas cards as we do traditionally, the cost of printing the cards – 10,000 Euros – was donated to the project instead. This will help fund new equipment such as appliances at the eye clinic, help us to invest in training and allow us to provide much better medical care. 

For more information visit the company’s website.

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