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2019 in review: what we achieved

It's been another groundbreaking year for Sightsavers. Find out what we’ve been up to, from launching new programmes and hosting exhibitions to meeting the Queen…

December 2019
Sia and her children smile after an eye screening in Liberia.
Children smile at the camera after the final trachoma treatment campaign in Yendi, northern Ghana.

January

Sightsavers kicked off the year by featuring in a high-profile report published in US business magazine Forbes about our work in Ghana. In 2018, Sightsavers and partners made history by helping Ghana become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate  trachoma, paving the way for other countries to follow. Read the Forbes case study

A collection of the items that Sightsavers is auctioning, including signed shoes, records and books.

February

A collection of the items that Sightsavers is auctioning, including signed shoes, records and books.

Rita Ora, Kate Moss, Stephen Fry and Annie Lennox were among the big names that donated prizes for our eBay Experiences auction, giving fans the chance to win backstage passes, signed memorabilia, studio tours and more. The auction, which ran from 22 February to 3 March, raised more than £3,000 to support our work. Read the news story

Peace holds a sign saying 'You can help us wipe out trachoma for good.'

February

Also in February, we launched our latest fundraising campaign. The End is in Sight will run for several years and aims to help banish trachoma by 2025. Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper said: “Everyone who donates to the appeal could help us get one step closer to consigning this awful disease to history.” About the campaign

 

A group of children sit in a line on a bench waiting to be tested for river blindness.

March

A group of children sit in a line on a bench waiting to be tested for river blindness.

Sightsavers’ work in Liberia featured in a story published by global news agency Reuters. The report focused on protecting sight in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, and how the country has bounced back from the disease. Work is now continuing to protect and treat people for river blindness. Read about Liberia five years on

March

Staff from Sightsavers’ online and design team hosted a workshop for graphic designers and creative professionals to promote inclusive design and accessibility. It welcomed guests from design agencies, charities and other organisations, and reinforced Sightsavers’ commitment to be as inclusive as possible. About the workshop

A group of creative staff sit at a table discussing their task.
Shafa tests her daughter's eyes.

April

Shafa tests her daughter's eyes.

Sightsavers marked its second fundraising draw in partnership with People’s Postcode Lottery, which raises money for good causes in Great Britain and around the world. Thanks to PPL funding, Khadijah was able to have cataract surgery, giving her a chance at education. Sightsavers has benefited from five draws in the past year, with proceeds totalling nearly £4 million. About the partnership

A close-up of the awards, featuring the logo and the word 'Winner'.

April

We also celebrated as two of Sightsavers’ films scooped high-profile prizes. Our film marking the one billionth treatment for NTDs won bronze in the Charity Film Awards, while in May a film highlighting Sightsavers’ work also won bronze in the Brand Film Festival Awards. Read about the Charity Film Awards and the Brand Film Festival Awards

Sightsavers' stand at the Science Museum in London.

May

Sightsavers' stand at the Science Museum in London.

Sightsavers made its mark at the Science Museum in London as part of the regular ‘Lates’ events, a series of free evening events open to over 18s. We teamed up with The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust to invite guests to build a ‘tippy tap’, a home-made device that enables people to wash their hands when there’s no running water. The taps are vital in poorer countries to help combat the spread of trachoma. Read the Science Museum news story

Melua with an eye patch on her right eye after surgery.

June

The World Health Organization announced that trachoma rates worldwide have fallen by 91 per cent since 2002. WHO praised more than 100 organisations, including Sightsavers, that have worked together to tackle the disease, showing that it could be possible to eliminate trachoma for good within the next generation. Read the WHO news story

Staff from Post Insurance wearing yellow.

June

Staff from Post Insurance wearing yellow.

On 21 June, Sightsavers Ireland hosted its annual Bright for Sight fundraising campaign, where companies across Ireland encourage their staff to wear yellow to work and raise money to save sight. Companies including Post Insurance, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Glavloc and Reddy Charlton Solicitors joined in the fun, donning bright yellow outfits to support our life-changing work. About Bright for Sight

Delegates sit at tables during the UN Friends of Vision event.
Photo © Joel Sheakoski

July

Sightsavers joined eye health organisations in New York for an event to promote inclusion and vision for all. Hosted by the UN’s Friends of Vision, it featured contributions from Sightsavers Pakistan country director Munazza Gillani and UN representatives. It was organised by Clearly, Sightsavers, the IAPB and the Mission of Antigua and Barbuda.

Three men holding walking sticks stand arm in arm.

July

Three men holding walking sticks stand arm in arm.

Sightsavers and partners launched Inclusion Works, an innovative programme that aims to enable millions of people with disabilities to find mainstream jobs. The programme, funded by UK aid and led by Sightsavers, will test new ways to create job opportunities for more than 2,000 people with disabilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh over the next three years. About Inclusion Works

Children celebrate at school leading up to the one billionth NTD treatment.

August

An area of Nigeria that was once rife with river blindness was found to be free from the disease. More than 4.2 million people are now protected against river blindness in Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna states, and no new cases have been found in the region, bringing the disease one step closer to being eliminated completely. Read the news story

A child drinks water from a cup during a drug administration session in Nigeria.

September

A child drinks water from a cup during a drug administration session in Nigeria.

Sightsavers and partners launched the groundbreaking Ascend programme, which aims to protect 200 million people around the world from debilitating diseases. It will tackle six of the world’s worst diseases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, visceral leishmaniasis and trachoma) in 25 of the world’s poorest countries. About the Ascend programme

A health worker examines a woman's eyes.

October

On World Sight Day (10 October), the World Health Organization unveiled new figures showing at least a billion people have impaired vision that either could have been prevented or is treatable. WHO’s World Report on Vision said the figures are likely to rise dramatically because of the world’s ageing population. Read the WHO story

Samson Lokele talks to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

October

Samson Lokele talks to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

Sightsavers staff met the Queen at Buckingham Palace as part of an event to celebrate progress towards eliminating trachoma. About 200 guests were invited to the reception to mark the achievements of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, which was coordinated by Sightsavers and a network of partners. Read about the event

Photo © Lemon Imaging

October

Our interactive BLINK photo exhibition took place at London’s [email protected], on the South Bank, to raise awareness of the End is in Sight campaign to fight trachoma. As visitors viewed the digital photos, every blink they made caused the images to change, leaving the photos permanently altered. The results were an artistic interpretation of the vision loss that trachoma can cause. More on the BLINK exhibition

Sightsavers' BLINK exhibition in London, featuring the BLINK logo and the Sightsavers logo.
Samson Lokele poses next to his image in the Science Museum exhibition.

November

Samson Lokele poses next to his image in the Science Museum exhibition.

A new permanent exhibition dedicated to medicine was unveiled at the Science Museum in London, featuring Sightsavers’ work to eliminate trachoma. Visitors can read about the work of Sightsavers eye surgeon Samson Lokele, who travels to treat people in remote regions in Kenya. The exhibition is the world’s largest medical gallery and will be on display for at least 30 years. About the exhibition

November

Sightsavers’ Social Inclusion Working Group welcomed lunchtime speaker Lee Spencer to talk to staff about his experiences. Single-leg amputee Lee is the first physically disabled person to have rowed solo across the Atlantic, smashing the able-bodied world record by more than a month. His goal was to show that no one should defined by their disability. More about Lee

Lee Spencer holding his Guinness World Record certificates.
Sightsavers staff at the UN hold signs saying 'We call on the United Nations to uphold the rights of people with disabilities'.

December

Sightsavers staff at the UN hold signs saying 'We call on the United Nations to uphold the rights of people with disabilities'.

Sightsavers’ #EqualWorld petition to support disability rights, featuring more than 50,000 signatures, was handed to UN Under-Secretary-General Ana Maria Menendez in New York. The petition calls for the UN and its member states to uphold the rights of people with disabilities around the world. Read the #EqualWorld news story

Looking ahead

2020 promises to be busier than ever for Sightsavers as we continue our groundbreaking work. On 5 January we celebrate our 70th birthday, marking seven decades since Sir John Wilson founded the British Empire Society for the Blind (the original name of Sightsavers). Keep an eye on social media to find out how we’ll be celebrating! Our history

Sightsavers founder Sir John Wilson.

What else has Sightsavers been doing this year?

Read our news and blogs
A woman standing by a brick wall holds a sign reading #EqualUN.
sightsavers_news

UN disability committee achieves historic gender parity milestone

Five women have been elected to the UN CRPD committee, answering Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign call for more diversity and gender equality.

December 2020
A school-aged boy has his height measured to receive deworming treatment during a school based mass drug administration.
sightsavers_news

Sightsavers ranked as a top charity by GiveWell for fifth year in a row

The charity evaluator has once again praised Sightsavers’ deworming programmes in Africa for their cost-effectiveness and transparency.

November 2020
A small child receives his annual dose of medication to protect him from trachoma.
sightsavers_news

Sightsavers’ director joins Lancet Commission on COVID-19

Sightsavers’ director of neglected tropical diseases, Simon Bush, has joined a new international COVID-19 task force set up by The Lancet.

November 2020