Sightsavers: Taking Eye Care to the People
Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
Synopsis and Key Points:
Review of Sightsavers, an international organization that works with poor and marginalized communities in developing countries.
Sightsavers is an international organization working with their partners in developing countries to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities. The organization's vision is of a world where no one is blind from causes that are avoidable and where visually impaired people participate equally in society. Blindness is an important cause and effect of poverty. Sightsavers works with poor and marginalized communities in developing countries.
Sightsavers works to combat blindness in developing countries, restoring sight through specialist treatment and eye care. They also support people who are irreversibly blind by providing education, counseling and training. Sightsavers help the people who need it most - those living in poverty in some of the world's poorest countries.
The organization believes much more is achieved through collaboration. It forges partnerships and alliances to ensure a positive and long-term impact on the lives of people. Sightsavers believes no one should go blind unnecessarily; it prevents, treats and cures avoidable blindness while promoting eye health.
Sightsavers also believes people with visual impairment should be able to develop to their fullest potential. The organization works with people with disabilities to promote equal opportunities and rights. With the right resources, people can find their own solutions. Sightsavers strengthens communities and organizations to develop practical and long-term solutions.
The organization believes learning and innovation are crucial in order to improve the quality of what they do. Sightsavers underpins their work with the best available research and evidence. Supporters of the organization are a key part of the solution; the organization works with supporters to accomplish its goals.
Some of Sightsaver's History
The year of 1950 found Sightsavers being established by Sir John Wilson with the expressed aim of restoring sight wherever possible in developing countries. Today, Sightsavers works with local partners in more than thirty countries. The organization is supporting the treatment of 3,000,000 people each year, to include providing more than 250,000 cataract operations.
The U.S. Sightsavers International organization was established in the year 2000 and is a nonprofit organization. People who donate to the organization find their donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. U.S. Sightsavers International is affiliated with Sightsavers International, a group of organizations working together with partners in more than thirty countries. Along with provision of medical operations and care to prevent blindness, the organization provides services to people who are blind and campaigns for the eradication of needless blindness.
"It has been estimated that the number of blind people in the world will increase from 44 million in 2000 to 76 million by 2020, if action is not taken to reduce blindness."
A Challenge from Sightsavers
Sightsavers states if greater action is not pursued to reduce blindness, the numbers of blind people in the world will increase from 44 million in 2000 to 76 million by the year 2020. The economic cost of blindness is vast, developing countries could potentially achieve a boost of more than $300 billion in economic productivity over the next twenty years if they adopt appropriate measures to reduce the experience of blindness. The organization continues to work closely with partners around the world to contribute to their goal of eliminating avoidable blindness.
Sightsavers will also be calling for international action to include children who are blind in the mainstream educational process. Doing so is essential if the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education is to be achieved.
The Mumbai Vision Center
The Mumbai Vision Center is part of the wider Mumbai Eye Care Campaign (MECC). Launched in the year 1999 by the K.B.H.B. Charitable ENT and Eye Hospital, the program provides subsidized or free eye health services to poor people in Mumbai and the wider state of Maharashtra, which is home to 110 million people, one in five of whom live in poverty conditions. At the time, the poorest and most vulnerable populations, people most in need of eye care services, were not being reached. The MECC was designed to bring eye care services to people in unreached populations via community outreach screening and referral programs.
Sightsavers started supporting these and other initiatives from the beginning, starting with a cataract screening and treatment program. Since then, the organization initiated a specific pediatric eye health initiative with Sightsavers' support, to include a focus on premature infants who are most vulnerable to blindness and in-school screening as well as either refractive error correction with glasses and/or surgical eye care referrals. Later, the organization expanded their reach to concentrate on addressing low vision through more comprehensive examinations to identify permanent loss of vision to equip people with assistive devices and train them to use their remaining vision to complete everyday tasks.
Sightsavers, the Vision Center and Taking Eye Care to the People
In the year 2009, with Sightsavers support, the Vision Center strategic model of delivering primary eye care services was piloted in Mumbai slums and ultimately expanded to eight throughout Mumbai. Usually, one center is responsible for approximately 100,000 people and is managed by an optometrist and a community health worker. The centers are always located in the heart of communities in buildings that are rented, or in community-owned clubs to cut overhead costs and ensure sustainability.
The community health worker goes door-to-door every week, offering people an initial on-site screening of distance and near vision. People who require a further examination are given a referral card and directed to the Vision Center. All examinations are comprehensive and free of charge. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in India, followed by refraction error and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is rapidly increasing as well.
The price of a cataract operation is 2,000 Indian rupees, or $31 in America. The majority of poor people are unable to afford even this minor cost. For people who are poor, the Vision Clinic provides all cataract surgeries free of charge without outside assistance as all pro-bono services are offset by private surgeries.
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