Rwanda gets cheap glasses, poverty levels to drop

Worldwide, approximately 150 million people suffer from defective vision and need glasses to study or work effectively, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A technician of One Dollar Glasses Rwanda manufacturing a new frame. Sunday Times/Courtesy
A technician of One Dollar Glasses Rwanda manufacturing a new frame. Sunday Times/Courtesy

Worldwide, approximately 150 million people suffer from defective vision and need glasses to study or work effectively, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Unfortunately, most people cannot afford the necessary eyecare because glasses are expensive. Besides, there are limited ophthalmologists in most countries. For instance  Rwanda whose population is 11.4 million people currently has only 11 ophthalmologists

Now, 18 Rwandan technicians grouped in the recently founded organisation,  OneDollarGlasses Rwanda, want to fix this problem. They plan to distribute affordable glasses in the whole country, starting this year.

According to Robert Munyaneza, a technician with OneDollarGlasses Rwanda, the team has since last year been producing about 108 pairs of glasses in two hours of work everyday. 

In their office at Kagarama Sector, Kicukiro District, 3,000 pairs of glasses await  their distribution. The team plans to distribute the glasses in collaboration with eyecare centres and hospitals. 

All one needs, according to Munyaneza, is to undergo an eye test and if one qualifies for the spectacles, they are immediately given to them. 

The OneDollarGlasses Association was founded in June 2012 by the German physics teacher Martin Aufmuth and has its headquarters in Erlangen, Germany. The idea was implemented in Rwanda in April 2013.

During a two-week workshop, 14 Rwandan technicians were taught how to produce the special glasses and are also sharing the knowledge with many people in various countries. 

“We want to let people know our product. We are the first people in Africa proposing cheap glasses. The project aims to satisfy the needs in Rwanda but also to expand to the entire East Africa”, Munyaneza says.

All what the technicians need to manufacture the glasses fits in a wooden box. Among the other tools required to produce the glassed is a machine that works without electricity. Every technician trained by the OneDollarGlasses Association gets such a box for free.

With this equipment, one pair of glasses can be made in only 15 minutes, explains Munyaneza. The glasses  consist of a light, flexible and stable spring steel frame with prefabricated lenses made of polycarbonate. Munyaneza said every individual can get the colour of frame they need. 

After the training, the local technicians work independently. In every pair of glasses, the technicians invest one dollar. And when they sell a pair for between one and seven dollars, they can earn enough to sustain their families.

“The project will help the public and us,” says Munyaneza.

This is also proved by the latest figures from WHO. According to WHO, the income lost due to lack of eyecare is valued at about $120 billion annually. This is the value of the entire development aid worldwide in one year.

According to Munyaneza, the One Dollar glasses meets all standards of the Rwandan (RBS) and the Ministry of Health. 

“Our products are quality. And the best thing is that they can last for more than 100 years because the frame does not break,” he says.

OneDollarGlasses Rwanda is right now in the process of registering as an NGO. That way, it can easily start the distribution.

 

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