9 October, 2014 - Steph Gaut
As World Sight Day comes around again, we’re getting into the spirit of things by saying “No more Avoidable Blindness.”
That’s the 2014 call to action from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, together with the World Health Organisation.
This theme draws attention to key interventions that are crucial to the success of one of the universal eye health targets – a reduction in avoidable blindness by 25% by 2019.
Global statistics suggest that in places like Ethiopia, up to 80% of vision impairment and related eye health issues are preventable or treatable.
At CBM, we know that cataract is the world’s leading cause of blindness. And we also know that it’s one of the most easily treatable forms of blindness. That’s why we work in the poorest places to restore the gift of sight through cataract surgery.
There’s more to universal eye health than just treatment – so we’re working to prevent avoidable blindness too, by making sure communities have access to much-needed medication and hygiene strategies that can help prevent blindness-causing diseases such as Trachoma or River Blindness.
But what about the remaining 20% of people who live with untreatable blindness or vision impairment? This is where we focus on disability-inclusive eye health – working with other disability organisations, governments and local partners to promote disability-inclusive access, good quality outcomes and a long-term improvement in the quality of life for people living with vision impairment.
Often, people with disabilities miss out on accessing essential eye health services, because of a variety of barriers such as physical barriers and negative attitudes. But by encouraging eye services to consider disability inclusion, we’re ensuring that even the most marginalised can have access to critical eye health treatment and services to help end the cycle of poverty and disability.
A cycle of poverty and disability exists – and it affects millions of people around the world. Nearly 80% of all people with disability live in developing countries, where they are more likely to live in poverty as they are often excluded from education and employment opportunities, have poorer access to quality health care and often cannot access rehabilitation services.
On the other hand, people living in poverty are more likely to acquire a disability due to lack of quality healthcare, water and sanitation or unsafe work practices. Simple strategies to ensure people with disability are included in healthcare programs can have a huge impact in helping to break the cycle of poverty and disability.
Nine-year-old Hadiya used to shield her eyes, desperately trying to soothe the burning pain of Trachoma. And every day she was slowly, painfully heading towards irreversible blindness. Thankfully, antibiotics is a proven strategy for fighting the active trachoma infection, and keeping a child safe from trachoma.
Together with our supporters, CBM was able to get the vital antibiotics to Hadiya’s village in Ethiopia in time, stopping the Trachoma infection in its tracks and preventing a lifetime of pain and blindness.
Now, Hadiya, and other children just like her, have a brighter future ahead!
You can find out more about what CBM is doing to promote inclusive eye health at cbm.org.au