LONG VALLEY, New Jersey — A recent study published by the World Health Organization revealed that visual impairment worldwide has decreased since early estimates in the 1990s. Globally, 285 million people are classified as visually impaired, meaning they are either blind or have low vision, and 90 percent of these people reside in low-income or developing countries.
Several countries have already achieved considerable success in reducing visual impairment in their populations. In the last decade, the Brazilian government has increased the availability of eye care services through their national social security system. Morocco has launched a public effort to control glaucoma, educating the population about visual function importance through school-based awareness. China has invested over $100 million in cataract surgeries since 2009. Oman has completely integrated high quality, available and affordable eye care service provisions in their primary health care framework for the poorest at district level.
But there is still much progress that needs to be made. In Tanzania, 71 percent of the population is far-sighted, but only six percent of Tanzanians have eyeglasses. Likewise, in India, seven percent of the population wears spectacles while 65 percent need them.
According to WHO, 80 percent of all visual impairment can be cured. In some cases, “curing” visual impairment can be as easy as measuring refraction and providing the right spectacles. The following organizations are working to improve eye care in developing countries by providing sustainable and accessible eye care services on a global scale.
1. Eye Care Foundation
The Eye Care Foundation helps to prevent and cure blindness and visual impairment for impoverished people residing in Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Tanzania.
The organization consists of small medical teams who administer eye camps in the inaccessible and hard-to-reach areas of their project countries. By transforming buildings into temporary clinics, the medical teams screen the local population and prescribe affordable treatment, operations or spectacles for the residents.
The Eye Care Foundation is also dedicated to implementing long-lasting change in eye care services in these developing countries. Ocular experts train the local ophthalmic staff in national and international training centers, providing them with critical knowledge to address eye issues such as glaucoma, cataract and uncorrected refractive errors. The foundation further funds infrastructure, ranging from village clinics to regional eye hospitals, that proffer permanent access to eye care in poverty-stricken areas.
2. Centre For Vision in the Developing World
CVDW brings self-adjustable eyewear and suitable distribution programs to those in need of vision correction worldwide.
The main purpose of CVDW is to promote self-refraction, a process whereby someone with a refractive error is able to correct his or her own vision without being dependent on a highly-trained professional or the use of expensive equipment. CVDW funds research of self-adjustable glasses which is an ideal solution to the lack of access, money and knowledge about eye health in developing countries. With self-adjustable glasses, there will be no need for trained optometrists to undertake one-on-one screenings, no capital costs for training and equipping and no funding needed for vision clinics and facilities.
CVDW has produced 40,000 pairs of adjustable glasses that have been distributed in areas of rural India and China and helped residents self-correct their poor vision.
3. Brien Holden Vision
Brien Holden Vision has launched a program to reduce cases of avoidable blindness and impairment for children worldwide, thus dramatically improving the quality of their lives and educational performance.
According to Brien Holden Vision, poor vision inhibits a child’s ability to learn (80 percent of what a child learns is processed through the visual system) and gain employment, while also impairing their social interaction skills. An estimated 19 million children are currently visually impaired, but 12 million of these children suffer from impairment that can be corrected. Working in Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, China, Cambodia and Samoa, Brien Holden Vision is partnering with governments to strengthen child eye health in schools. The Institute is establishing screening centers for children in school settings, training health workers and teachers, and educating the population about eye conditions and their preventable risks.
Dedicated to giving sight to those who need them, these organizations are projecting a bright vision for those who lack access to critical eye care.
– Abby Bauer