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We’re making huge progress on avoidable blindness, but we still have work to do

Charity Dandak, October 2018
Nine year old Sonali smiles to camera
Nine-year-old Sonali from India after she had her cataracts treated.

In the past 15 years, Seeing is Believing – a community investment programme run by Standard Chartered Bank, one of Sightsavers’ largest corporate donors – has raised $100 million to tackle avoidable blindness.

I recently attended a ceremony to celebrate Seeing is Believing’s incredible achievement.

The programme works in partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and NGOs such as Sightsavers (we were one of the first NGOs to receive Seeing is Believing funding). Through the programme, more than 160 million people around the world have benefited from improved vision.

To understand the impact that has had, we can break it down and see what it means in just one region of one country: the Sunderbans in India. In this area, made up of around 100 islands, access to health care is limited or non-existent, and untreated eye conditions leading to blindness are common.

In the five years of our project there, funded by Seeing is Believing, we established 17 vision centres in the region, which screened more than 451,000 children and 401,600 adults for eye health conditions. As a result of the screenings, we were able to distribute 13,300 free pairs of glasses and carry out nearly 32,000 life-changing cataract operations.

Our project was also designed to improve the local health system and engage the wider community. So as well as the screenings and operations, we trained health workers and teachers to better identify eye health conditions and visual impairments, meaning more people could get the support they needed.

If that’s the impact in one area of a single country, you can see just what a huge difference Seeing is Believing has made around the world. And it shows why our partnerships with governments and institutions are so crucial to our work, enabling us to design sustainable, evidence-based programmes that can transform lives.

We know there are many millions of people still affected by avoidable blindness. The latest statistics tell us that 253 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired, yet 75 per cent of that blindness or visual impairment can be treated or cured.

So while we celebrate the significant accomplishments made thanks to our supporters and partnerships, we also acknowledge that we still have a huge challenge ahead to meet the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness.

253 million
people worldwide are blind or visually impaired

 

Author


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Charity Dandak
Charity is Sightsavers’ Senior Adviser for Institutional Funding.

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