Pius Atwau is a 5th year medical student at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda, with exceedingly high interests in EYE health. Pius’ family is affected by low vision among males Pius inclusive. The first thing he did on his first day rotating in ophthalmology was to examine his eyes. This was an opportunity for him to explore why he had low vision. Surprisingly, he was diagnosed with congenital cataract. It was quite unusual that after knowing he had congenital cataract, Pius was excited as he had gotten to know why he had a low vision from childhood. This was a question that Pius had unanswered from his childhood.
After his four weeks long clinical rotation in ophthalmology, Pius had learnt a lot on EYE health. He was so excited for having rotated in ophthalmology. Without further do, Pius put together a team of five of his colleagues in the same class as he wanted to lead a change to create awareness on avoidable blindness. They started a campaign called Universal EYE Health (https://www.facebook.com/UniversalEYE-Health-Campaign-101743302101383), zero avoidable blindness awareness campaign on 18th May 2021.
The team is motivated and hopeful to eradicate avoidable blindness in Uganda. The campaign is running on the motion “Towards a nation free from avoidable blindness”. The campaign is organized into four phases. Phase 1 being an online campaign due to COVID 19 restrictions. Phase 2 is Healthy EYE camps in hard-to-reach areas. Phase 3 is research into most pressing eye health challenges in underserved areas of the country. Phase 4 is writing of Healthy EYE Activity Magazine.
The team focused on eradication of avoidable blindness. For the first three month, the campaign has been focusing on creation of awareness on avoidable blindness. Among the topics discussed included childhood blindness, vitamin A deficiency, Diabetic retinopathy, Digital eye strain, refractive errors, cataracts, trachoma, trauma to the eye, and conjunctivitis.
Currently, the avoidable blindness awareness campaign is in phase two, only being limited by the restrictions of the COVID 19 lockdown. Nevertheless, Pius is passionate about eye health and continues to engage many stakeholders in the area of ophthalmology. Pius and his team are planning to have a mass media talk on world sight day 14th October 2021 to continue creating awareness on avoidable blindness.
It is so surprising that Pius and his team started the campaign using the resources they had in their reach. There was barely no financial support based on their status as students. Later on they wrote to Peace First asking for financial support of $250 which they were awarded at the end of July. Nevertheless, Pius and the team continue to use the limited resources they have to promote eye health, this shows how passionate Pius is about eye health. His passion comes from his own experience having low vision. He feels there are people who need more support than himself. Therefore, he is putting his energy to make that come to reality.
To achieve more, Pius reached out to C.E.O Eye Health Africa and expressed his interest in promoting eye health in his locality. He was given an opportunity for mentorship to develop him further into a better leader.
Pius’ vision is to develop innovations around tele ophthalmology. He thinks the traditional eye clinics stationed in one place cannot meet the need for eye health services in Uganda hence the need for a mobile EYE clinic.
“”The EYE is small, but powerful enough to change the world. I believe solutions to some of the world’s problems today are in the eye. Definitely if we take good care of the eye, then we can see those solutions. Good vision means increased productivity. I remember struggling for front seats in my primary and high school because I could not see from a distance. Sitting in front of the class came with challenges of constant cough and flu from chalk dust. I had to bear all that in good faith. I am sure there is a child who is going through the same that I went through in my primary and high school.
This experience is what motivates me to promote eye health through blindness awareness campaigns and activities in my locality. I can’t imagine being part of those contributing to eradication of avoidable blindness in over one billion people who are visually impaired world wide. What a nice feeling.””
– Pius Atwau