Invest in your future – get yours eyes checked

From Pakistan to Papua New Guinea, South Africa to Vietnam and Cambodia, the message is going out across the world that our eyesight is vital to our health and well-being and getting your eyes checked regularly is one of the best investments you can make in your future.

An estimated 640 million people are avoidably blind or vision impaired globally (mostly in developing communities) because they don’t have access to an eye examination and appropriate glasses, so in addition to urging people to get their eyes checked, World Sight Day on 11 October is raising the alarm about the desperate need to fund and support the eye care systems that will address this unnecessary tragedy.

To help get the word out in Pakistan the Brien Holden Vision Institute will be joining up with the Pakistan Optometric Society to conduct eye health screening and awareness for vulnerable groups in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Swat, Shangla, Chowinda, Toba Tek Singh, and Layyah, providing vision screenings for around 2000 people and spectacles where needed. Those in need of medical or surgical intervention will be referred to Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust (LRBT) hospitals.

The students of Al-Maktoom Special Education School for Visually Impaired, Islamabad will receive comprehensive low vision assessments, and  receive spectacles and low vision devices to help maximise their vision. Referrals to medical and rehabilitation services will also be facilitated. For International White Cane Safety Day on 12 October, in collaboration with Pakistan Blind Cricket Council, the Institute will host a cricket match for the blind, building community awareness and promoting equal rights for people that are vision impaired.

A convoy of eye care workers have hit the road in South Africa to take vision care to people in underserved communities this week as part of the Drive for Sight event. The team are visiting some of our major eye care programs, screening school children in need and informing communities about eye health. Drive for Sight finishes in Soweto on 11 October, with the launch of a new eye care program called Giving Sight in Soweto, and includes a performance from the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Giving Sight in Soweto, a partnership with Standard Chartered Bank, is a three-year project aimed at strengthening and improving the provision of comprehensive eye health services in Soweto. It follows on from the successful Giving Sight to KwaZulu-Natal program which last year delivered its one millionth vision screening or eye examination to patients in the province.

In Vietnam celebrations are centred on Ba Ria-Vung Tau (BRVT) province in the south east of the country, where the Vietnam Australia Vision Support Program (VAVSP), established vision centres during early 2012 in the provincial town of Ba Ria and districts of Xuyen Moc and Dat Do, providing access to eye examinations, prescription spectacles and referrals for further vision care.

The successful collaboration involves BRVT People's Committee, the BRVT Provincial Eye Centre, local community partners and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, with funding assistance provided by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), through the Avoidable Blindness Initiative and Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium.

Attending the celebration was CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, Ms Jennifer Gersbeck, and its Global Ambassador, Australian Paralympian Jess Gallagher. “As part of the World Sight Day celebrations I am very proud to have with me Jess Gallagher, our Global Ambassador, an Australian Paralympian who is sight-impaired,” said Ms Gersbeck.

“I am thrilled to support the efforts of Australian agencies working in partnership to improve the vision of millions of people in the region who are not so lucky,” Ms Gallagher said. “Obviously, losing my own sight means that this is an issue that is close to my heart and I am happy to be able to give something back.”

Activities planned by the Phnom Penh Vision Centre (PPVC), established in the Cambodian capital in 2009, includes collaborations with international NGO IRIS, and a local NGO Khamera, which supports women and disadvantaged groups. This will include extended community vision screening and refraction services.

During the week, PPVC and IRIS will offer free eye examinations and free eye surgery and spectacles as required to disadvantaged women and children from the Phnom Penh area, who have been identified as needing eye care and referred by Khamera. The women will in return spread the word in their communities about the eye care they received in an effort to encourage others to utilise the service in the following weeks and to make use of the free eye examinations offered all year round. They estimate that up to 300 free eye examinations will be conducted during the week and they have funds to provide free glasses to all patients referred through Khamera.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), events will centre on the island of Buka where a vision centre was established in 2011 to provide much-needed eye care services to the region. An open day at the vision centre, attended by Dr Anthony Pumpara, CEO for health services of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and associated activities, will help raise community awareness about eye health and the local services available. Free eye examinations and low cost spectacles will be provided for all visiting the vision centre.

To coincide with World Sight Day the Institute has released a new booklet, a quick and quirky guide about how to avoid vision impairment and sinking into poverty.

World Sight Day is an initiative of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight (a joint undertaking of the World Health Organization and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness).


About World Sight Day

To help raise awareness and generate support for the 640 million people who need an eye examination and pair of glasses the Institute launched the All those in favour SAY EYE campaign. If you believe in vision for everyone…everywhere, SAY EYE this World Sight Day.