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Tourism Industry Joins Forces for Humanitarian Vision Outreach in Botswana

Okavango Wilderness Safaris and non-profit Children in the Wilderness (CITW) have partnered with humanitarian Anton Poplett of 4×4 OutFar and Global Vision 2020 on an eye-screening initiative to test hundreds of children aged 10-14 in 17 schools in Botswana’s remote North-West District. To expand this pioneering outreach to even more children, Wilderness introduced conservation tourism colleagues Great Plains, Desert & Delta and Natural Selection who then finalised co-sponsorships on the same initiative.

“This is the third time Anton and his team have collaborated with us on this life-changing initiative. In agreement with the Botswana North-West Regional Environmental Education Co-ordinator, and with tourism partners and the blessing of the Botswana Ministry of Health, we are confident this campaign will grow from strength to strength, and help alleviate what, in the vast majority of cases, is an easily preventable problem”, noted Kim Nixon, Okavango Wilderness Safaris Managing Director.

CITW Programme Co-ordinator and Okavango Wilderness Safaris Stakeholder Manager, Moalosi Lebekwe added, “In July 2021 Anton was in Botswana’s Bobirwa region, and more recently in September 2021 in Zimbabwe, performing eye tests and providing eyeglasses to children in CITW partner and other schools. We’d been in discussion with him to do another round in Ngamiland but delayed it because we had food distributions going on, and schools kept closing due to COVID. But during that time, Kim worked to ensure our conservation tourism colleagues operating in the Delta join in, so that we could increase the number of schools and share the costs of running the initiative. Last month we confirmed the backing of the Ministries of Basic Education and Health and Wellness in Botswana, and I’m delighted to say our latest drive has already started, running from 21 March to 1 April 2022.”

The prevalence of visual impairment in Africa is one of the highest in the world, particularly in rural and remote areas. This is of great concern due to the low number and inadequate distribution of primary eye care practitioners and infrastructure services in these areas. In addition to this fundamental impairment to the quality of life, the impact of uncorrected refractive error, also known as blurred vision, comes at a high cost – usually up to USD100 for a pair of eyeglasses. This leaves many rural communities out of reach of something we’ve taken for granted for over 700 years – basic spectacles.

By empowering existing networks, NGOs and other government organisations to become dispensers of prescription glasses in less than one day of training, using a first-of-its-kind “self-refractive tool” known as the USeeTM, more rural communities across the continent will be reached.

Anton uses the Global Vision 2020 Distribution system founded by J Kevin White, a retired US Marine who also invented the innovative USee Vision Kit™. The system is lightweight, the training is simple, and clear sight can be provided within a matter of minutes. In fact, the CITW team is now trained to conduct the basic eye-tests and to distribute eyeglasses within certain parameters.

The 17 schools benefiting from the latest initiative are: Shashe Primary, Habu Primary, Tubu Primary, Seronga Primary, Gunotsoga Primary, Eretsha Primary, Beetsha Primary, Gudigwa Primary, Mathiba Memorial Primary, Tsodilo JSS, Khwai Primary, Shorobe Primary, Sankoyo Primary, Khumaga Primary, Moreomaoto Primary, Nxamasere Primary.

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