Dozens of Romanian children had their eyes examined for the first time in a remote area of the southern Carpathians.
The humanitarian organization Casa Buna, or Good House, organized the vision tests in Nucsoara, which comprises several villages. Routine eye exams are recommended from early childhood, but many children in the impoverished rural community have never been seen by an ophthalmologist.
“Given that out of 30 children screened, 20 needed glasses, I think those ophthalmic caravans are needed in as many villages around the country as possible,” Mioara Marinescu, a volunteer ophthalmologist at Saturday’s event, told The Associated Press.
The importance of evaluating children’s eyes is not limited to needing corrective lenses. Amblyopia, the condition known as “lazy eye,” is estimated to affect 1% to 5% of children worldwide, and missed cases can cause long-term problems.
While examining the children, Marinescu found three with amblyopia, a disorder that she says can “limit access to certain professions in adulthood.”
“Unfortunately, in our country, children do not receive equal education and health,” said the eye doctor.
Valeriu Nicolae, who founded Casa Buna in 2007, comes from a poor Roma community. Poor eyesight can have a serious negative impact on children’s educational outcomes, he said.
“Teachers think children hate reading, but in fact, they hate reading because they can’t read because they have poor eyesight,” Nicolae said. “Children who cannot read because their eyes are really bad are useless in the educational process. They get tired and drop out.”
The volunteer organization supports more than 300 children and their families, placing a strong emphasis on encouraging children to pursue their education. The group has played a leading role in supporting children during the pandemic.
Casa Buna arrived in Nucsoara, 200 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of the capital, Bucharest, more than a year ago. Volunteers visit every two weeks and bring help to 94 children and their families.
“It was the beginning of the pandemic, and practically none of these children had internet or computers. We put computers in all their homes, we made sure they had internet … and everything they need to stay online to continue their education,” added. Nicolae said.
Dozens of volunteers participated in the eye screening event, including riders from the Bikers for Humanity group. The volunteers organized activities and games to attract as many children as possible. Casa Buna also brought gifts to young people for International Children’s Day, which took place on June 1.
“We will do (eye tests) this year in nine villages. We hope to make 600 to 1,000 pairs of glasses,” said Nicolae, whose tireless campaign for better early childhood education has won him international awards.
Romania, which has a population of more than 19 million, has the highest percentage of children at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the entire European Union of 27 nations: 35.8% compared to an EU average of 22 , 5%, according to statistics. Eurostat agency.
Child poverty is more prevalent in the country’s rural communities, where one in two children lives in poverty.
“From birth, we should all have the same opportunities in education and access to health care,” said ophthalmologist Marinescu. Regardless of the geographical area in which we are born ”.