More people in Tanzania will be able to protect their eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays with help from the SKYGEN International Foundation and Vision for Life™, Essilor’s social impact fund. Essilor gifted 2,200 pairs of sunglasses to the Foundation just as Ultraviolet Safety Awareness month begins. In July, awareness is being raised about the dangers to eyes and skin created by overexposure to UV rays. Without eye protection such as sunglasses, overexposure puts people at higher risk for cataracts, cornea damage and vision loss.
The Foundation will distribute the sunglasses, which come in multiple designs, at its mobile clinic. The clinic offers eye testing and prescription glasses to people of all ages in the Arusha region of Tanzania. In the first three years of the clinic’s operation, the Foundation has provided 178,500 vision tests to people of all ages, and 35,781 pairs of prescription glasses and sunglasses at no charge.
The UV Index and Eye Safety
Vision care can be a challenge. In Tanzania, there is only one optometrist for every 250,000 people. In addition, the equatorial country typically has high UV Index levels. The UV Index (UVI) is a measurement used internationally to indicate the intensity of the sun’s UV rays and risk of overexposure. The UVI scale ranges from below 2 for low exposure to 11+ for extreme exposure. Higher values indicate greater potential for damage to skin and eyes. Sunglasses are recommended whenever the UV Index level is 3 or above.
In equatorial countries like Tanzania, exposure is higher since less of the sun’s rays are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere. Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, has an average maximum UVI of 7 in the highest UV months. Seven is at the top end of the Moderate to High level of UV exposure. In Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, the average maximum UVI is 12 in the highest UV months, putting the park in the Very High to Extreme level. In the U.S, portions of New Mexico, Colorado and California also have average UVI highs of 12 to 13, in July.
SKYGEN International Foundation Partners with Essilor
Essilor has been a valued partner since the SKYGEN International Foundation began its charter project in Tanzania in 2018. The Foundation’s mobile clinic has distributed thousands of pairs of Essilor’s prescription glasses on the spot after eye testing. The mobile clinic provides eye health education and distributes sunglasses as well.
“Since we started our eye clinics in Tanzania in 2018, we’ve seen some people whose vision issues are related more to the strong sun than a need for prescription glasses,” says Lisa Sweeney, SKYGEN International Foundation Executive Director. “The need for sunglasses there is immense, and through our strong partnership with Essilor, we’ve been able to offer sunglasses as well as prescription eyeglasses. The additional 2,200 pairs gifted by Vision for Life will be greatly appreciated.”
You Can Make a Difference
Your donation helps provide vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses for underserved parts of Tanzania and funds training of local teams needed to sustain these efforts.