More than 200 people with visual impairments at the ongoing free eye care camp in Kitgum are in need of white canes.
The white cane is a special stick designed to aid the mobility of persons who are partially sighted or blind to navigate their surroundings.
However, many people who turned up for the one-week camp with the hope of getting the white cane are going back disappointed.
Patrick Ongu, a Principal Ophthalmic Clinical Officer/ Cataract Surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital said they mobilized people who are totally blind to come to the camp and get white canes because two organizations pledged to give them, but they did not bring them.
According to Ongu, there are more than 200 people in need of white canes who came to the free eye care camp.
He added that although the hospital has a disability mainstreaming program where they give free white canes, they are not enough for the high number.
Ongu appealed to organizations that pledged to give the white cane during the camp to honor their pledge, stressing that it acts as a safety tool for the blind when using busy roads.
Charles Byekwaso, the Executive Director at Uganda National Association of the Blind-UNAB said the demand for white cane among people with visual impairment is high all over the country, but many cannot afford it because they lack a defined source of income.
The prices of white canes vary according to type and quality.
Byekwaso said the rigid type helps people who use poor roads detect potholes and dodge them, as well as protect them from falling in case they miss a step, while the foldable ones are convenient because they can put carried in a bag.
Byekwaso revealed that the rigid white cane goes for between 60,000 shillings to 100,000 shillings, while the retractable one range from 100,000-250,000 Shillings depending on the quality.
He disclosed that the association also does not have money to consistently provide white canes to those who need them, but relies on the support of donors that come once in a while.
Despite the fact that many blind people in Uganda cannot afford it, the white cane has for many years been used as a mobility aid to provide enough information to a traveler with visual impairment to ensure that they are safe when they are moving in either a familiar or unfamiliar environment.
Every October 15th, the world celebrates white cane Day, which has become a symbol of independence for the blind, who before its advent lived a life of isolation and dependency.