Althea is a Swiss private law foundation, recognized as promoting the public interest. Althea was created in 2002 to improve access to health and education for disadvantaged populations living in impoverished areas of developing countries, especially Morocco. Today, it relies on its branches in France and Morocco to assist in the implementation of its projects.
Promote access to eye care
According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired: 39 million are blind and 246 million have a decrease in visual acuity. The Vision 2020 program of the WHO states that uncorrected refractive disorders represent the first cause of visual impairment in the world and the easiest to avoid. In fact, 80% of all visual impairment is preventable or curable. Moreover, according to WHO, nearly 90% of people who are visually impaired live in developing countries. An estimated 19 million children under 15 years old are visually impaired and, among them, 12 million have a disability due to refractive errors, which could be easily diagnosed and corrected.
To support the effort of the WHO, the Althea Foundation was created in 2002, under the authority of the Swiss Cantonal Office for the control of foundations. Since its creation, Althea has been active in Morocco (through its Althea Foundation branch in Morocco), Mauritania, Egypt and in Democratic Republic of Congo, trying to ensure that access to health and education is a reality for all.
Since 2005, the volunteer opticians and ophthalmologists from our branch Althea France (from the Jura region) have carried out many optical campaigns in Morocco!
Visual impairment: an impediment to socio-economic development
To allow children in the most impoverished regions of developing countries to improve their learning skills and their chances of enrollment in general education, Althea began in 2005 thanks to the volunteer team of our branch in France. More recently through our branch in Morocco, we have organized annual mobile optical campaigns in southern Morocco, a region with a significant deficiency of infrastructure and human resources in health. Indeed, without proper vision correction, children miss out not only educational opportunities, but they also risk visual loss, which is a real impediment to their own wellness and to the socio-economic development of the country.
A long-standing partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Health
In Morocco, Althea actions fall under two partnership agreements with the Ministry of Health. The first agreement, signed in 2007, covers the ophthalmic surgical operations. A second partnership agreement concerning the field of school and university health was signed in 2013.
Expansion to dental activity
In 2008, Althea Foundation decided to expand its scope to providing the poor with access to basic dental care. Oral health is essential for the general health and quality of life. As stated by the WHO, poor oral hygiene can lead to “tooth loss and other diseases and disorders that limit the ability to bite, chew, smile and talk to a person, and therefore limit its psychosocial well-being”. In parallel to eye care campaigns, the Althea Foundation now organizes awareness campaigns for oral hygiene and dental care in impoverished areas of Morocco.
“The oral diseases are the third global scourge threatening the health of the population, after cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms,” World Health Organization.
Althea is committed to education
Assuming that education is the key factor in the fight against poverty, the Althea Foundation decided in September 2008 to support education in Morocco, particularly schooling for girls. Althea focuses on preschool, a sector that is still very underdeveloped in the country. In collaboration with two NGOs, Alpatlas (Switzerland) and Al-Anquae (Morocco), we opened our first preschool in 2008 in the village of Talsint. A second preschool was opened in 2009 in the village of Gourrama.
These schools serve a dual purpose. In addition to their role in the development of children and their preparation for primary school, these preschools allow children ages 3-6 years to benefit from eye care. Althea conducts systematic screening of refractive errors and eye diseases in theses preschools, such as amblyopia (lazy eye), knowing that the best healing results are related to early detection. The detection of these eye deficiencies on time avoids more serious illnesses that would grow with time and would be much harder and more expensive to treat. Children in Althea schools as well as many others have benefited from the optical campaign of October 2008. Two serious diseases were detected and treated in time. Althea aims to open more pre-schools in impoverished regions of Morocco because without proper vision correction, children miss out not only educational opportunities, but they also risk visual loss, which is a real obstacle to their well-being and to a sustainable socio-economic development of the country.
Training and transmission
In addition to responding to urgent care needs, the Althea Foundation thinks long-term. Thus, the strengthening of the team specializing in eye care has allowed ophthalmologists to free time for the training of teachers and paramedical staff to health problems associated with refractive errors and how to detect them. This training was very well received and will be renewed during Althea campaigns.
Where do we act?
The Althea Foundation works with the poorest. It is mainly in impoverished and/or isolated areas of Morocco, which have a huge backlog in infrastructure of health and education. But we also work on the outskirts of some large cities, like Casablanca, where unfortunately, many people do not have access to basic health care. The actions of the Althea Foundation are conducted mainly in Morocco, but also in Mauritania, Egypt, Tchad and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.