1. We still need to make the case for the prioritisation of eye health
We were invited to CPHIA by Dr Ada Aghaji, a professor of public health ophthalmology at the University of Nigeria. She led a session at the conference where she made the case for eye health as an integral part of health care.
Dr Ada started her session by asking everyone to take one step forward, two to the side and one step back. She then asked the attendees to close their eyes and see if they could find their seats. Of course, people were struggling, and that’s the reality for so many people with visual impairments. Dr Ada used this example to emphasise how important eye health is.
It was clear that we still need to advocate for eye care to be a priority in these discussions. So, you need these sessions for people to understand that if you don’t have your sight, you face many more challenges.
I think we hit home for so many people, but I’m conscious that we are still competing for attention and funding within global health.
2. The case for eye health needs to be specially made with donors
The reaction from visitors to our stand was always positive, and our work is seen as important. During one-on-one conversations, I felt people could understand the importance of eye health. We highlighted the additional barriers that people with visual impairments face and emphasised the need for everyone to have access to quality eye care services.
At the end of the day, the donor chooses where their money should go, and usually, those with bigger pockets have more influence because of the power of their finance. We need to be present in conversations to discuss the importance of eye health with the people with the most prominent voices and significant impact.
3. It is time to reprioritise the issues that were critical before COVID-19
The world is currently facing many health priorities, including post-COVID health care and the situation in Ukraine.
I spoke to my contacts at the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (which hosts the CPHIA) during the conference. It was agreed that we will be moving on from talking about COVID-19 by next year. So, I hope that, while we act on the lessons learnt from COVID-19 and strengthen our health systems to better respond to pandemics, we should also go back to addressing some issues that were on the table before COVID-19.
Hortance Manjo is Sightsavers’ global technical lead for unaddressed refractive error.