Sightsavers worked in Sri Lanka for more than 20 years, and in 2016 we reached an exciting milestone: we were able to leave the country because our work there was completed.
It’s the first time we’ve been satisfied that the eye care services we’ve set up and supported in a country can continue without us. We’re proud that people in Sri Lanka will continue to benefit from our eye health work into the future.
When Sightsavers started working in the country, eye care services were limited. Although there is a free health service, there wasn’t a coordinated effort to prevent eye disease, perform cataract operations or make eye healthcare easily available for those who couldn’t afford it.
Sightsavers filled the gap; we supported eye care training in the central Kandy district and gradually our support expanded, setting up eye units across the country and opening a dedicated country office in 2005.
Dr Palitha Mahipala, Director General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, described Sightsavers as the “backbone” of Sri Lanka’s Vision 2020 programme, a global initiative that aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020.
Teams in the UK, Delhi and Sri Lanka worked together to plan our departure from the country. We made sure our partners were trained in fundraising, were able to prepare project proposals and those staff who were leaving us were fully supported. This has given us a solid model to help us plan our exit from other countries as we continue our work across the world.
“The fact that we are able to move on, leaving behind a sustainable programme, is testament to the work of the Sri Lanka country office and our partners.
“We have never achieved this before. All development agencies aim to be able to leave a country, safe in the knowledge that they are leaving a strong legacy.”