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Sightsavers hails success of Caribbean programme

March 2017

Three men in a surgery room in the Caribbean region

Sightsavers is celebrating the successful completion of a major programme in the Caribbean region, which has led to thousands of successful treatments and delivered improvements in eye health systems.

The programme has created a step change in the provision of eye care services in Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and St Lucia, achieving all its goals to develop, monitor and increase access to services for people who are visually impaired.

The objectives, part of the global Vision 2020 initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness, were achieved by strengthening organisations within the countries so they could deliver effective, sustainable care.

More than 9,000 eye operations were carried out during the £4.7 million programme, funded in large part by the European Commission, which began in 2010. More than 400,000 people are estimated to have benefited, some of whom no longer have to travel from one island to another to receive care. People living in poverty or in rural areas have better access to affordable eye health screening and surgical services.

The programme supported the launch of the region’s first Optometry Bachelor Degree, which saw its first students graduate in 2016; and all four countries have significantly improved their ratios of eye health staff.

The programme has boosted care for people with cataracts, glaucoma and diabetes-related eye diseases, as well as launching the delivery of spectacles in public hospitals in almost all the health administrative areas in Guyana, and half the areas in Haiti and Jamaica.

Life-changing eye care

“We’re delighted that this ambitious programme has achieved all its objectives and has made such a notable contribution to the goals of the Caribbean Strategic Framework for Vision 2020,” said Sightsavers Director of Policy and Programme Strategy Dominic Haslam.

“It’s delivered life-changing eye care to thousands of people and sets the stage for improved eye health care for future generations. We are confident that all four countries will carry forward the work of ensuring that no one is avoidably blind, and delivering improved eye care for the whole population.

“The programme has left a strong legacy of coordination at national and regional level which is being built on. It has also proved that it’s possible to effectively manage a partnership of NGOs, private sector organisations and health ministry partners, to deliver affordable public eye care services to poor and rural communities.”

Key strategies

The programme included a series of strategies:

  • ensuring that national eye health plans are in place
  • strengthening local organisations so they can influence government policies
  • establishing and strengthening national Vision 2020 committees to ensure ongoing improvements in care
  • improving infrastructure and staff resources

Its far-reaching impacts mean all four countries now boast a culture of strategic planning for eye health.

All the organisations which took part in delivering the programme are members of the Caribbean Council for the Blind (CCB), which provides eye care services as well as education and training for sight-impaired children and adults. Many local health centres, schools and even churches were part of the success story.

Even Caribbean countries which did not take part benefited from the general improvements in training, information-sharing and communication.

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