London, United Kingdom, 22 March 2018: Delegates at a recent House of Commons UK event have called for urgent resources to improve access to affordable eye care worldwide. Hosted by British MP Henry Smith for Vision Aid Overseas, some of the industry’s brightest leaders presented the latest research and predictions for the provision of eye health services.
"More than a billion people cannot see to read and simply need reading glasses,” said Professor Rupert Bourne of the Vision Loss Expert Group of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. “Until recently, this massive unmet need has mostly been neglected. These observations highlight the need to respond to the WHO's Global Action Plan by scaling up of our current efforts at global, regional, and country levels, to eliminate the burden of unnecessary blindness and vision impairment."
Nicoles Chevis, CEO of Vision Aid Overseas at the House of Commons event
Nicola Chevis, CEO of Vision Aid Overseas, cited one example of how comprehensive programs are tackling child eye health issues. “We are now working with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in Zambia and other stakeholders to develop and pilot a national child screening programme which will enable all children to be screened for eye care,” she said.
“Children who can’t see properly can’t learn effectively and are far more likely to drop out of school particularly if they are girls.”
Chipo Mweemba at the House of Commons event
Zambian Optometrist, Chipo Mweemba, one of the first graduates of a new program in Lusaka, spoke of how a newly established tertiary course had started a transformation in the country.“Five years ago, we only had two Zambian optometrists practicing in the entire country,” he said.
“That changed soon after Chainama College of Health Sciences introduced the optometry course with Vision Aid Overseas being the core advocate and sponsor of the programme. From 2013 to date, Chainama College has graduated 52 optometrists with diplomas in the field.”
“I have been privileged to see this happen first-hand; when someone walks into the clinic with all hope gone and they walk out smiling with their life restored simply because they can see clearly.”
Professor Kovin Naidoo, Global Director, Our Children's Vision at the House of Commons event
Professor Kovin Naidoo, representing over 73 organisations participating in the Our Children’s Vision campaign, emphasised that it wasn’t just about reaching the target of 50 million children. “It’s about creating powerful partnerships, driving awareness of child eye health, particularly uncorrected refractive error, utilising local knowledge, advocating for policy change, public health education and health promotion.”
Delegates at the event were asked to commit to:
• support Universal Eye Health Coverage by 2020
• allocate resources to achieve Universal Eye Health Coverage
• form innovative partnerships to enable Universal Eye Health Coverage
The event was sponsored by Vision for Life Essilor and Specsavers.
For more information about the event please visit “Vision Matters; Leave No One Behind” at Vision Aid Overseas or Our Children’s Vision on Twitter or Facebook