Sense International, a global charity supporting deafblind children and adults, has launched a pioneering programme in Kenya and Uganda to screen infants for multi-sensory impairments.
The programme, the first of its kind in East Africa, will screen 300,000 infants during a three year pilot and is being funded by a UK appeal, which was match funded by the UK government, and raisedmore than £700,000. The generous public response resulted in a £222,972 contribution of the total in UK aid match funding from the government.
The programme, developed in partnership with the Ministries of Health in Kenya and Uganda, will see all babies born at participating health facilities, or those receiving immunisations within the first six months of life, screened for deafblindness by specially trained medical officers.
Babies who are found to have a multi-sensory impairment will be enrolled on the charity’s early intervention service which will provide occupational therapy, sensory stimulation and communication therapy at community health centres accessible to the local population, many of whom are living on less than a $1 a day.
During the course of the programme, medical staff will also collect data to determine the causes and prevalence of congenital disabilities, sensory impairment and deafblindness, including one of its major causes – Congenital Rubella Syndrome.
Christina Moraa was one of the first mothers to be offered sensory screening, for her child, Simon. She said:
“The tests showed that my son’s eyes were fine, but there was a problem with his ears. I had a rash during pregnancy so they have taken a blood sample to determine if he has Congenital Rubella Syndrome. I am now being referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat), to confirm the condition.
I never suspected that my son had a problem with his hearing. Thankfully the screening was provided for free, and they have promised support for my child’s assessment and treatment.”
Stevie Kent, East Africa Regional Manager at Sense International said:
“By identifying sensory impairments as early as possible we can ensure children with deafblindness get the medical and educational support they need, leading to improved developmental outcomes, and ultimately a better quality of life for the child and their family.
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the UK public, and support of the UK government, who have enabled us to implement this pioneering programme in Kenya and Uganda.
Our hope is that the screening and research programme is adopted and scaled up by the governments of Kenya and Uganda, so that in future all infants within each country have access to a vital early intervention service.”
For further information on the programme visit https://www.senseinternational.org.uk/finding-grace
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