World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness and advocacy held on the second Thursday of October to focus global attention on the causes and consequences of vision impairment. This year, on October 8, Operation Eyesight celebrated #HopeinSight across our global offices in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and North America. We called our event Around the World Sight Day.
Our outreach in South Asia spans India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In celebration of World Sight Day, our team inaugurated thirteen vision centers across four states in India. Each vision centre will serve a population of approximately 50,000 and support two female community health workers from their local communities. We also opened a vision centre in Bangladesh. In our live interview with our India country manager, Anup Zimba, he shares that “vision centres are the solution to accessibility.” We are pleased to be able to bring them in remote communities in need of eye care.
In Nepal, in partnership with the Nepal Eye Hospital of Kathmandu, Operation Eyesight launched the Nepal Mobile Eye Unit. Equipped to identify cataract and other eye conditions, the Mobile Eye Unit will be used for primary screening programs in some of the most remote areas of Nepal. Patients will receive eye treatment and transportation free of charge. Coined “Vision on Wheels,” the vehicle will bring quality eye care to four suburbs of the Kathmandu Valley and three to four districts around and nearing Kathmandu.
Hosting outreach eye screening camps reduces some of the barriers to accessing eye care, such as lack of transportation or child care. On WSD, our team in Zambia was able to host our first eye screening camp of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following increased hygiene practices and social distancing, community members were screened for eye infections. They were then referred for treatment or provided with eye glasses if necessary. Members of the community were very excited that eye screenings camps are resuming after six months of lockdown. Screening camps raise awareness and encourage communities to focus on eye health as a priority. Paul Mpundu Kulya, our Zambia Project Coordinator, notes “one thing I know is that blindness can be avoided, it is unacceptable that people should go blind due to avoidable causes. Eye health needs to be a priority just like conditions such as malaria and tuberculosis.”
While outreach camps were on hold during the lockdown, our Zambia team continued our work in eliminating blinding trachoma by focusing on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). They were able to rehabilitate 145 dysfunctional boreholes to provide clean water to over 35,000 people. The ripple effect of bringing clean water close to communities is profound. Many children, especially girls, are forced out of school due to lack of clean water, latrines and sanitary facilities. By restoring access to clean water, Operation Eyesight was able to help with preventative measures against COVID-19 and trachoma, and provide a positive effect to entire communities.
In Kenya, we were able to conduct screening camps and we shared the journey of Michael, who benefited from our program. During the week of the screening camp, a community health worker identified Michael as completely blind due to cataracts. Michael has suffered from avoidable blindness for three years. He was forced to quit his job as a watchman and was reliant on friends and neighbours for food. As a result of our outreach camps, Michael was referred to one of our partner hospitals, where he received sight restorative surgery. Michael has regained his independence and is looking for a job in his community. Outreach camps provide access and give hope to those needlessly suffering from avoidable blindness.
In honor of WSD, our team in Ghana hosted an eye screening camp. We were also able to open our first vision centre in Awutu Senya. This will help bring quality eye care closer to those in need. Additionally, we interviewed our Technical Advisor located in Ghana, Dr. Boateng Wiafe. With over 35 years of experience in eye care, Dr. Wiafe provided key insight into the importance of eye health. He emphasized that “eyesight is one of the most important senses we have, in fact, 80 percent of what we perceive comes through the sense of sight.” Even more so, “the eyes are the window of the body,” and much can be determined about overall health by diagnosing eye conditions.
By protecting our eyes, we reduce the odds of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing disease. He recommends that after the age of 40, everyone should get their eyes checked at least once every other year. Prevention and priority are key.
Our global celebrations of WSD highlighted the incredible work being done by Operation Eyesight and our partners around the world. We know that eye health is essential to thriving communities and that 80 percent of eye health problems are avoidable or treatable. Prioritizing eye health and reducing the barrier of accessibility can lead to profound results. We are so grateful to donors who have helped make our work possible, and we are pleased to highlight the impact their gifts are contributing to. There is #HopeInSight in ending avoidable blindness, join us today!
*This year make eye health a priority and pledge to get your eyes tested.