Situation in Kenya

Kenya, located on the Eastern coast of Africa, is home to 39,002,772 people living within seven provinces and a capital area around the city of Nairobi.It is estimated that approximately 300,000 Kenyan citizens are blind, which translates to 0.7% of the population. The major causes of blindness are cataracts, corneal scars due to Trachoma, and glaucoma. It is estimated that 80% of blindness in Kenya is curable. The very first survey of blindness in Kenya was conducted in 1952 by Sight Savers International and revealed that 75% of cases were treatable or curable.

Though blindness is most common in adults there are approximately 14,000 blind children in Kenya. Currently, there are only 61 ophthalmologists in Kenya and 33 are located in Nairobi. This means there is one ophthalmologist for every 1,000,000 people in urban areas and 1 for every 2,000,000 people in rural areas.

Forty-three percent of blindness in Kenya is caused by cataracts. There are approximately 14,500 new cases each year in addition to the 107,000 citizens already suffering from cataract blindness.

The International Trachoma Initiative estimates that nearly 6,000,000 people in Kenya are at risk of being infected with Trachoma. This infection is endemic in 18 of Kenya’s 80 districts. Eleven of these endemic areas are located in the Rift Valley Province. Women are three times more likely to be blinded by trachoma as the infection is passed easily between family members through close contact. Children are most susceptible to infection, but symptoms usually manifest in adulthood. Trachoma is most common in isolated rural communities where people live in close proximity with limited access to health care and sanitation. Sixty-one percent of Kenyans live in rural areas. As of 2006, 85% of Kenyans living in urban areas have access to clean water while only 49% of those living in rural areas did.

The Kenya Society for the Blind was established in 1956 to serve citizens with visual impairment and those at risk of blindness. More recently, Kenya signed the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness, created a National Committee, and a National Plan as of the December 2006 deadline. Kenya also participated in a Vision 2020 workshop.