Program areas at HKI
To prevent blindness, Helen Keller intl treats cataract, refractive error and diabetic retinopathy in the developing world. In a world where at least 2.2 billion people suffer from blindness or vision impairments, almost half of cases are from causes that could have been prevented, treated or cured. Unaddressed refractive error and cataract represent the top two causes of vision impairment, affecting an estimated total of nearly 189 million globally. Diabetic retinopathy and trachoma affect an additional estimated 3 million and 2 million, respectively. In 2020, Helen Keller's diabetic retinopathy program in bangladesh screened over 11,000 patients for diabetic eye disease, of which over 1,100 were provided with treatment when diagnosed. Refractive error threatens the quality of life of countless children, often resulting in lost education and future employment opportunities, lower productivity, emotional frustration and social exclusion. By engaging students, parents, teachers, district administrators, local healthcare providers and community stakeholders, Helen Keller's childsight program in asia pacific and the us "brings education into focustm" for disadvantaged students. This program provides free vision screenings, refractions, eyeglasses, and referrals to other necessary eye care. Globally, over 266,000 students had their vision screened by teachers, health care 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 79,000 students living in some of our country's poorest communities and provided free eyeglasses to over 19,200 (or 25%) of them.
Another aspect of Helen Keller intl's work to prevent blindness and malnutrition is our work in the control, prevention and morbidity management related to neglected tropical diseases. Our integrated neglected tropical disease (ntd) control program using mass drug administration (mda) addresses onchocerciasis and trachoma (conditions that lead to blindness), as well as schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths (conditions that lead to malnutrition), in addition to lymphatic filariasis (a condition that leads to morbidity and disability). During 2020 alone, in spite of the challenges presented by covid-19, Helen Keller worked with ministries of health to administer over 32.7 million individual treatments for these five ntds in five african countries (burkina faso, cameroon, mali, nigeria and sierra leone) 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 non-governmental partners in this area in four african countries (mali, niger, nigeria and tanzania). To this end, over 2020 alone, we screened 455,816 individuals for trachoma and supported surgery for 5,006 individuals affected by trichiasis (a blinding condition resulting from trachoma).
To reduce malnutrition in the developing world, Helen Keller intl provides technical assistance to national entities, including government offices, in africa and asia pacific to improve the nutrition of infants and young children as well as their mothers and other vulnerable family members. In spite of challenges presented by covid-19, Helen Keller continued to provide technical assistance to governments in a number of african countries to reach nearly 12.5 million children under five years of age with vitamin a supplements distributed bi-annually or through routine health services to combat child mortality and nutritional blindness. We also continued our support to governments and private sector companies in large scale food fortification in several countries across africa (burkina faso, senegal, and nigeria) to explore fortification of bouillon cube. Over the last year Helen Keller's 'agriculture for nutrition' programs, including both our homestead food production and orange-fleshed sweet potato models, were active across a number of african and asia pacific countries. As a result, we estimate to have reached a grand cumulative total of close to 1.9 million families with better access to micronutrient rich foods since we first began supporting these approaches more than three decades ago.