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Sightsavers blog

WHO global action plan: slowly but surely…

Edwinah Orowe, October 2016
A group of villagers sit on the ground under a tree during a CATCH screening camp in Mozambique.

“We want to ensure that data availability and eye health workforce are addressed”

Sightsavers works in advocacy to ensure the sustainability of our work beyond the life of a project.

At a national level, we ensure that all our projects have an advocacy component. This provides an opportunity for us to explore systemic and structural challenges that impact our work.

Alongside project implementation, we are able to continually engage key stakeholders and duty bearers in relevant ministries to look at structural and policy implications of our work to the larger national call.

The advocacy work of Sightsavers International’s country offices in Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya is contributing to the delivery of the World Health Organization’s global action plan towards universal eye health (2014-2019). This was adapted at the 66th World Health Assembly out of recognition that more than 80 per cent of global blindness can be prevented or cured and close to 90 per cent of all visual impairment affects people living in developing countries.

Coordinated Approach to Community Health

With the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Community Health) programme, we are looking to ensure that key issues that impact eye health such as data availability, eye health workforce and eye health prioritisation are addressed for the long term.

CATCH is a four-year project that started in April 2015 supported by the UK government. During the lifetime of this project we want to ensure that we reach many more people with eye health conditions, increase our own capacity to continue learning about emerging trends and issues in eye health, and ensure a supportive environment that can sustain itself beyond March 2019 (when the project closes).

In each of the CATCH implementing countries in East, Central and Southern Africa, we are working alongside our partners to ensure that health information systems are addressed, and that the eye health workforce need is recognised as key within wider planning on human resources for health. We also work to ensure that national eye care plans are developed and aligned with mainstream health plans.

We want to ensure that health systems and structures are strengthened and ready to respond to the need and demand for quality affordable eye health, alongside our promise for CATCH to deliver 21,500 life changing cataract operations and 45,000 treatments for other eye conditions.

Now in its second year of implementation, CATCH is focusing on the three key asks under the global action plan: the need to generate eye health data within the mainstream health management information systems; the implementation and development of national eye health policies and plans; and investment in, and promotion of, an increased eye health workforce.

Sustainable and systemic approach

As well as our organised eye health camps and outreaches, Sightsavers country offices are also aiming to ensure sustainability and a systemic approach towards eye health with our advocacy work:

  • In Malawi we are the lead convener for the eye health working group, and have played a central role in supporting the development of the national eye health plan (2017-2021). We also continue to work with key people in the Ministry of Health to ensure the inclusion of an eye health indicator within the health sector strategic pla8n.
  • In Uganda, in partnership with other stakeholders, we have successfully finalised the national eye health plan which has been approved by the ministry of health. We have also successfully advocated for development and adoption of additional tools for gathering eye health data, which will help with its reporting.
  • In Zambia, in partnership with Ministry of Health, we have just concluded the development of an ambitious national eye health strategic plan (2017-2021). We are also supporting review of training curriculum to improve eye health capacity and ensure availability of the much needed workforce to respond and address the demand for eye health service delivery.
  • In Kenya, we have held meetings with the Ophthalmic Services Unit at the Ministry of Health to discuss the most effective way of ensuring health management information systems also report on eye health related data. A situation analysis is underway to get baseline information on health management information systems gaps. We will document this and use our learning districts as live examples of the need for eye health data.
  • In Mozambique we are part of the national eye health observatory team whose main duty is to work with and ensure that the Ministry of Health addresses emerging issues around eye health. Our most recent success is the development of a plan for human resources for health, which includes eye health.

Our country offices are also using the opportunity provided by the CATCH project to ensure that bring together all stakeholders – from community members who are recipients of our services, to government ministries who are our key partners, to other eye health workers – to ensure that we get ever closer to achieving universal eye health by 2020.

By Edwinah Orowe, Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Adviser based in Kenya

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