For Africa Day, Terje Iversen, Director International Development and Cooperation, Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, talks about the work they are doing in Africa to enable blind and partially sighted people to fight for their rights.
The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted (NABP) was formed in the year 1900 and has come a long way since the initial days of working in Norway.
In 1978, the blind in Norway decided that they wanted to show solidarity with their blind brothers and sisters in developing countries by supporting projects in Africa. Our first international project was in Juba in South Sudan, supporting a local organisation of blind people. We also built a large eye health and prevention of blindness project and a school for blind and partially sighted there.
Since our international work started in South Sudan, we feel that Africa is a “special” continent for us. Even though we phased out our support for projects in South Sudan many years ago we are still in contact with our old partners there.
The main purpose of our engagement in developing countries is to enable blind and partially sighted people to fight for their rights by strengthening organisations of the blind and support education and rehabilitation programmes.
We aim to achieve our goals by working in these four areas:
- Strengthen existing and/or new organisations of the blind and partially sighted by emphasizing organisation-building programmes.
- Improve the lives of the blind and partially sighted through rehabilitation, education, vocational training and income generating programmes.
- Promote and strengthen education and learning for blind and visually impaired youth.
- Combat blindness by initiating eye health treatment, prevention of blindness programmes and training of local health personnel in eye health.
Coordination is key
This strategy requires the four areas to work well with each other.
If a blind person is identified, they should be checked at an eye hospital before starting with rehabilitation. If sight restoration is possible with a simple operation, nothing is better than that.
For cases where sight cannot be restored, instead of sending the patients home, they are referred to a rehabilitation programme. They are also put in touch with an organisation of the blind where they can get advice about their rights and possibilities for the future.
Our current work
Currently we have 17 projects in 9 countries in Asia and Africa. Of these, four are eye health programmes. Most of our funding for our international work is from the Norwegian government (NORAD) through the Atlas Alliance of which we are a member.
In Africa, we implement this four-pronged strategy by supporting projects in Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda and Angola, working with different local organisations. Our partners in these countries include: Malawi Union of the Blind, Uganda National Association of the Blind (UNAB), Associação dos Cegos e Ambliopes de Moçambique (ACAMO), Lesotho National League of Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP), and Associação National dos Cegos e Ambliopes de Angola (ANCAA).
A major portion of our work in countries like Malawi, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique involve supporting and strengthening our local partners, providing rehabilitation services and supporting income generation projects. But we also work with governments providing training, doing school screenings etc.
In Mozambique, we work with the Ministry of Health, running an eye care project based in Chimoio, Manica province.
In Lesotho we have a tripartite agreement with the Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Health. We cooperate with the Ministry in the area of eye health and prevention of blindness as well as training of ophthalmic nurses. So far, we have trained more than 60 ophthalmic nurses.
In Angola we also have a project with the provincial government in Uige Province. This is an eye care and prevention of blindness project providing eye health services to a large population. The capacity of this project is limited and the number of operations done is much less than the number that need eye operations.
In addition, we support the African Union of the Blind which is a continental organisation representing organisations of blind and partially sighted people in Africa. This project is focused on strengthening associations of the blind and partially sighted in Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries in Africa.
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