World Sight Day 2022 shines a light on eye health

Photo from community eye screening camp as a healthcare personnel attends to the people.
Written by Colin Zak, published on November 1, 2022 Sign up for eNews

Across the globe, eye health took centre stage as Operation Eyesight teams celebrated World Sight Day on Oct. 13 with public eye health screenings, community education and other awareness events.  

“World Sight Day is a reminder for us all to love our eyes and prioritize our eye health, but in many areas where we work across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, that’s easier said than done,” explains Kashinath Bhoosnurmath, President & CEO of Operation Eyesight.  

“That’s why celebrations often focus on upping efforts to bring eye health care to places where it’s needed most, particularly in schools and in remote communities.”  

In Ghana, our teams partnered with Ghana Health Service and hosted an eye health screening event at St. Mary Anglican Primary and Junior High School, where 334 students and teachers were screened for eye conditions, and nearly 100 were referred to our partner hospital, Watborg Eye Services, for further treatment.   

“Eye health conditions will impact nearly every person in their lifetime, but due to a variety of factors, whether it’s financial or geographic limitations, eye health care is simply not an option for many people,” explains Emmanuel Kumah, our Country Director for Ghana.  

“It’s partnerships with local leaders and the health system that made this year’s World Sight Day Celebrations such a success.”  

But that was just the beginning.   

In Kenya, community screenings and surgical camps screened 1,381 people and treated 749.   

“We were honoured to partner with the Iten county government to break ground on the construction of the operation theatre at the Iten Eye Unit,” says Alice Mwangi, our Country Director for Kenya.  

“This is an important step for the community, because it means eye health care will be available locally to patients with complex eye conditions. This is fantastic news for patients who will no longer have to travel long distances to receive care.”  

A female patient, wearing blue, faces away from the camera towards an eye exam chart.
A patient at Keringet Health Centre Hospital, West Pokot County, Kenya receives a vision test during a community eye health screening on World Sight Day 2022. During this screening, 35 patients were identified as having cataracts and received sight-restoring surgery.

In Zambia, our team hosted the country’s Vice President for the official opening of the Eye Unit at Maamba General Hospital, where nearly 300 people received eye health screenings, diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, our Zambia team, working together with other eye health NGOs, hosted community screenings at several locations in the Zambian capital city of Lusaka, as well as a screening event for Members of Parliament and staff.  

Operation Eyesight staff and dignitaries cut the ribbon for the official opening of the Eye Unit at Maamba General Hospital.
Operation Eyesight staff and dignitaries cut the ribbon for the official opening of the Eye Unit at Maamba General Hospital on Oct. 10, ahead of World Sight Day 2022.

“We were pleased to see so many government leaders come out to show their support and interest for eye health on World Sight Day,” says Chali Chisala Selisho, our Country Director for Zambia.   

“It’s a sign that decisionmakers are beginning to take note of the importance of eye health. World Sight Day and other awareness activities are a big part of that.” 

WSD in India and beyond 

We didn’t stop there. 

At Kompass Junior College in Hyderabad, India, our team hosted an eye health screening for 130 junior college students, and nearly a third of students screened were prescribed eyeglasses. Kompass was one of six school eye health screenings we hosted across the country to celebrate World Sight Day. It’s also part of a unique program where one school in turn ‘adopts’ another underserved school to receive free eye health screening.  

A group of more than a hundred students dressed in blue uniforms and wearing heart-shaped glasses proudly display World Sight Day banners.
Students at Kompass Junior College don heart-shaped glasses as part of World Sight Day celebrations. Kompass is part of a unique program where they will now sponsor another school whose students need eye health screening.

Our India team also hosted nine other free eye health screening camps as part of World Sight Day 2022 celebrations. In all, 2,248 people were screened across India, with 344 patients identified as having eye conditions and referred to an Operation Eyesight vision centre or partner hospital for treatment. Our teams and partners also dispensed 100 pairs of prescription eyeglasses to people who needed them.   

“Along with bringing eye health screening and care to the heart of the community, our World Sight Day celebrations also highlighted the need for more eye health facilities in rural parts of the country, where eye conditions frequently prevent kids from attending and thriving in school,” says Dr. Troy Cunningham, our Country Director for India.   

“All this was bolstered by education and awareness activities, including the launch of new eye health materials, awareness rallies, and street plays at local parks and police stations.”  

Throughout India, our 144+ vision centres in the community – including our newly-inaugurated vision centre in Jamalpur, offered free walk-in eye exams, regardless of patients’ ability to pay.  

In partnership with local leaders, our teams also declared nine villages avoidable blindness-free – that is free of untreated cases of avoidable blindness and vision loss.  

“The impact we are having together transforms not only individual lives, but entire communities,” Troy adds.  

“These celebrations were the culmination of months of work by our teams, beginning with identifying villages, mobilizing local leaders and community members, hosting screening camps and validating our work.”  

Community members from Madhya Pradesh gather in red chairs facing a celebration banner. At the right of the frame stand two community health workers, donning blue shirts.
On World Sight Day, four villages from Kurawar, Madhya Pradesh, India were declared avoidable blindness free. This is the first group of villages in the state to be declared free of untreated vision loss.

Troy also says that these events helped show just how effective our community-focused model is in the lives of both individuals and entire communities.  

A global issue 

In Canada, ahead of World Sight Day, Operation Eyesight and others took to Parliament Hill, as we were invited to meet with Members of Parliament and Senators to advocate for the development of a national eye care strategy that will support equitable access to eye health care.  

Additionally, we promoted the World Sight Day #LoveYourEyes theme across social media and were featured on CTV Morning Calgary sharing tips on how Albertans can love their eyes and support our sight-saving work.   

“It’s the passion and tireless efforts of our local staff, volunteers and partners that made World Sight Day 2022 one for the books,” says Elizabeth Roden, Director of Marketing and Communications. 

“World Sight Day highlights the important work our teams are doing worldwide all year round. It’s proof of what we can accomplish, together.”