Program areas at HKI
To prevent blindness, Helen Keller intl treats cataract, refractive error and diabetic retinopathy in the developing world, and also treats refractive error in poor communities in the us. At least 1.1 billion people suffer from blindness or vision impairments, and an incredible 90% of vision loss could have been prevented, treated or cured if people had access to adequate and affordable healthcare. Vision loss threatens the quality of life of children and family members. Children's learning can be so severely disrupted that they miss out on intellectual development, suffer from poor self-esteem, forego vital friendships, and never make up for lost time. Vision loss and blindness can cripple families' earnings and set them on a course for generations of poverty. By engaging students, parents, teachers, district administrators, local healthcare providers and community stakeholders, Helen Keller provides free-of-charge vision screenings and eyeglasses and medical treatments to students and adult family members in urban centers in the us where some of the most extreme health disparities exist; and to families in low-income communities around the world where low-capacity health systems simply do not reach those who are most vulnerable. Globally, more than 221,000 students and vulnerable adults had their vision screened by teachers, healthcare workers, and eye health clinicians trained and supported by Helen Keller intl, and, if required, received eyeglasses or more advanced care. In the united states alone, we screened the vision of more than 101,500 individuals living in some of our country's poorest communities and provided free eyeglasses to over 27,100 (or 27%) of them. In 13 countries around the world, Helen Keller is delivering vision-protecting vitamin a to millions of children, staving off blindness and building immune systems.
Another aspect of Helen Keller's work to prevent blindness and malnutrition is in controlling, preventing and managing the impact of neglected tropical diseases, which threaten the lives and wellbeing of millions of people. A cornerstone of the work is to administer medication that addresses conditions that lead to blindness (onchocerciasis and trachoma) and conditions that lead to malnutrition (schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths). We also provide medication to address a condition that leads to morbidity and disability (lymphatic filariasis). During 2022 alone, overcoming the continuing challenges presented by covid-19, Helen Keller worked with ministries of health to treat over 44.4 million individuals for at least one of these five diseases in six african countries (burkina faso, cameroon, guinea, mali, niger, nigeria and sierra leone) and bangladesh, contributing greatly to national efforts towards their control and elimination. Helen Keller is also involved in morbidity management and disability prevention related specifically to trachoma and lymphatic filariasis and is working to build the capacity of national government and sister organizations in this area in four african countries (mali, niger, nigeria and tanzania). In 2022 alone, we screened nearly 858,000 individuals for trachoma and supported surgery for close to 4,000 people affected by a blinding condition resulting from trachoma (trichiasis).
The world is facing one the worst nutrition crises in a generation, due to the multiplying effects of covid, climate change, and conflicts including the war in ukraine. These world events have severely disrupted the distribution of grain, seeds, fertilizer and fuel to low-income countries around the world and made nutritious food unaffordable or inaccessible to millions of people. Children and mothers are most at risk. To reduce malnutrition, Helen Keller intl partners with governments, communities, community health workers and community organizations in africa and asia pacific to reach infants and young children as well as their mothers and other vulnerable family members with training on farming, breastfeeding support, immune-building vitamin a, assessment and treatment of malnutrition and under-nutrition, and more. Helen Keller provided technical assistance to governments in twelve african countries to reach nearly 31.9 million children under five years of age with two doses of vitamin a supplements, more than doubling last year's reach. We also continued our support to governments and private sector companies in large scale food fortification in several countries across africa (burkina faso, nigeria, and senegal) to explore fortification of bouillon cubes. We estimate having reached more than 2.1 million families with better access to micronutrient rich foods since we first began supporting these approaches more than three decades ago.