Sight loss is a real scourge in the poorest countries: the WHO estimates that there are 39 million blind and 246 million visually impaired people in the world. Approximately 90% of them live in developing countries. Yet, visual disability, which affects 285 million people on Earth, is preventable in 80% of the cases. We are talking about the peripheries of the world, where no one is responsible for anything. And children’s health certainly is not the primary concern of the powerful. A slap in the face of prevention.
But something is changing. Dr Munir Ahmed (campaign director, Orbis International) and Dr. Kaosar Afsana (HNPP director, Brac) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the presence of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (Founder and President of Brac).
The agreement between Brac and Orbis, the international organization based in the US, with the support of the Qatar Foundation, aims to extend the quality of modern eye care and treatment for the poorest. Their idea is to strengthen sight health services in the communities of four districts, increasing access to sight care for children in Bangladesh. This activity is part of a new initiative called Qatar Creation of Vision (QCV).
“Many of them are affected by sight problems – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said -. It is of utter importance to help these unfortunate children to see the world, offering them basic care. We need teamwork to ensure the basic sight care for everyone.”
“We are committed to the goal Vision 2020 – reiterated Dr Munir Ahmed – and without a universal eye health coverage, it would be impossible.” A spokesman for the Fund for the development of Qatar has been clear about it: “Half of the cases of sight loss in childhood can be prevented or treated, so there is not much you can do, particularly for children in areas that are poor and difficult to reach.”
The four centers will be built in Khansama Upazila of Dinajpur, Nandail Upazila of Mymensingh, Dumuria Upazila of Khulna, and Homna Upazila of Comilla. Supported by the Fund for the development of Qatar, the initiative will allow one million eye checks, to cure 100,000 children with uncorrected refracted errors, and to perform 10,200 surgeries.
Brac is not alone, though. IAPB, the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness, founded in 1975 in London as a non-governmental organization, is engaged in mobilizing resources and tools worldwide destined to eye disease prevention.
Data are frightening: about 285 million people – as mentioned – are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 million with severe or moderate visual impairment. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the leading cause of visual impairment. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, along with glaucoma and macular degeneration. Treating children and observing them over time is the only way not to end up with generations of debilitated elderly people.
The most recent action plan concerns “universal eye health, global action 2014 – 2019”. Member States unanimously adopted it during the World Health Assembly in 2013, as part of the Wha 66.4 resolution. This last plan has an overall vision that backs Vision 2020, with a commitment to a further acceleration compared to ”universal access to full-service eye care”. A concrete way, not just philosophical, to “see” a future for the young people around the planet.