Last October, a coalition of public-private organizations including international NGO, CBM and Essilor’s social impact fund, Vision for Life™ came together to commemorate World Sight Day and announced a campaign to help students in Côte d’Ivoire combat uncorrected poor vision. The campaign offered free vision screening to more than 26,800 students from 17 primary schools and high schools in low-income neighborhoods across Abidjan, the largest city in the country. Of those tested, 2,675 who needed spectacles were equipped with free ones that would improve their quality of life in the classroom.

It is estimated 7.5 million people[1], or one third of the country’s population, suffer from uncorrected poor vision. The issue is also prevalent among school children – of the three million primary school students in the country, roughly 450,000[2] suffer from uncorrected poor vision, and most do not have easy access to a vision test or pair of spectacles. This can be extremely detrimental to their well-being, as poor vision directly impacts their academic performance by limiting their ability to learn effectively in the classroom which in turn can impact their overall well-being.

The campaign ran for three months from October to December and fulfilled three objectives: raising awareness of the importance of good vision among students and teachers; providing free vision tests to students; and equipping those suffering from poor vision with spectacles to help them see better and live a better life.

It was very heartening to receive such a warm welcome by officials and students at each school. Increasing awareness of the importance of good vision among students, parents and teachers is crucial as it can help our children learn and perform better in the classrooms.

Essilor’s Vision for Life™ provided spectacles, manpower and funds for the campaign. “It was very heartening to receive such a warm welcome by officials and students at each school. Increasing awareness of the importance of good vision among students, parents and teachers is crucial as it can help our children learn and perform better in the classrooms,” said Abdoulaye Koné, business developer at Essilor who was also project manager of the campaign.

“Through CBM’s network, we identified schools that lacked access to conventional means of vision screening, and worked with Essilor to bring essential eye care services right to their doorstep,” said Christian Aka, CBM Ivory Coast Programme Manager. “Our partnership with Essilor has helped thousands of school children in Abidjan get their eyes tested, setting them up for a better shot at excelling in their studies and in life.”

The coalition also included the local government and other private sector stakeholders. La Fromagerie Bel, a leading international provider of cheese products, financed part of the campaign, provided free lunches and ran workshops to educate students on the importance of healthy nutrition. The Ministries of Health and Education, optical school ISFOP, volunteers of the organization France Volontaires and the local Union of Opticians (CSMOCI) also lent their support to the campaign.

Encouraged by the campaign’s tremendous success and positive social impact, the coalition is now looking at ways to scale it up to benefit even more students.

[1] According to Essilor, Vision for Life and ISFOP estimates

[2] Extrapolated from data of screenings organized by Vision for Life in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016 and 2017 (i.e. a sample of 3,000 children). The prevalence rate varies mainly according to the age of the patients.