The Time is Now and Community Empowerment is Key

Young girl with blue bows in her hair
Written by Dr. Mary G. Alton Mackey, Operation Eyesight board member, published on April 6, 2020 Sign up for eNews

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is spreading across the globe and reaching the countries in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia where we work.

In Canada, as we have seen around the world, the mitigation efforts in confronting COVID-19 are focused on the behaviours of the individual, the family and the community. Prevention is essential and community empowerment is vital.

The lessons from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa document the key role the community played in stopping the disease. Defeating COVID-19 requires leveraging and unleashing the power of community action to implement prevention measures and to strengthen hygiene. Empowering the community to take action explicitly aimed at behaviour change will minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Operation Eyesight will ensure clear guidance on risk, prevention and awareness of symptoms are available to the communities where we work and to the broader community.

Operation Eyesight works with the local government and partner hospitals in Sub Saharan Africa where our eye health initiatives have been implemented and with partner hospitals in India, Nepal and Bangladesh to try to get in front of the crisis and help ‘flatten the curve’.

During this crisis, Operation Eyesight, building on our strong local partnerships and community based programming, will focus on:

  • Responding accordingly to heightened challenges to women and girls in developing countries during the pandemic when females are designated as the primary caregiver;
  • Providing clean water and promoting safe hygiene and sanitation, including access to water supplies, hand washing stations, hygiene kits etc.
  • Working to ensure adequate essential supplies like soap, disinfectants, and medications to treat infectious eye diseases that irritate the eyes such as trachoma continue to be available;
  • Educating and empowering front line health workers and Community Health Workers (mostly women) on infection, prevention and control measures
  • Facilitating the distribution of COVID-19 educational materials to keep our vulnerable communities informed.

The window of opportunity is closing. Help us help the communities that you have supported for eye health to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

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