Figures suggest the number of people who are blind globally could triple by 2050.
A new paper by the Vision Loss Expert Group has been published in the Lancet, updating our knowledge on the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. It estimates that in 2015, 36 million people globally were blind and 217 million were visually impaired. Thanks to efforts from across the eye health sector, we can see a decrease in the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment across the world’s population.
However, most visual impairment occurs in older age – due to conditions such as cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness. The report reveals that unless we improve access to eye health services, an aging and growing global population means that we could see the number of people who are blind triple to 115 million by 2050.
The research highlights the importance of investing in preventing and treating avoidable visual impairment, through cost-effective means such as cataract surgery or spectacles.
There are still huge inequities across the globe, with 89% of the world’s visually impaired living in low or middle income countries, particularly in Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. Qatar Creating Vision is committed to brining eye care closer to home for those who need it most across India and Bangladesh.
Earlier this year, TOITOMBOOR, a very popular magazine focused on child development across arts, health, education and a champion for those with special needs, organised a fair to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
The magazine has a strong focus on child eye health and therefore invited Orbis Bangladesh to educate their attendees about Qatar Creating Vision and eye health. Orbis provided free eye health check-ups for children at their stand with the help of another partner, the National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital (NIO&H). People were very interested in learning more about how to take care of their eyes and 36 children received eye screening. Several were identified as needing glasses and were swiftly referred to the hospital for further help.
The day was a great success with over 500 people attending and lots of fun family activities to take part in. The Orbis/Qatar Creating Vision Stand also received a visit from model Nobel who was keen to show his support for the improvement of eye health services for children.
On the 27th July, eye care charity Orbis launched their new REACH programme in Madhya Pradesh, alongside Shri Sadguru Sewa Sangh Trust, as part of the Qatar Creating Vision initiative.
Supported by Qatar Fund for Development, REACH, which stands for Refractive Error Amongst CHildren, will see Orbis work alongside 11 hospitals and Sightsavers across India. This collaboration of forces will provide children with access to glasses and specialist eye treatment, by improving eye health services and working within schools to identify children struggling with their vision.
The launch was attended by key figures from Orbis India, Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust and from the Madhya Pradesh district government. The day began with a flag off ceremony and was followed by an eye health rally, where a team of paramedics and students from the Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya hospital, walked through the streets of Chitrakoot, shouting and waving placards with important messages about healthy vision to the public.
The day also featured a tree planting ceremony and finished with a school screening in Chitrakoot. The day was a great success and a brilliant way start to a programme that will deliver 4.5 million screenings and treatments for children across the country.
The month of August saw a great expansion of services to rural communities surrounding Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute in Bangladesh. Three brand new Vision Centres opened to the public, which were inundated with eager potential patients on their very first day.
The new centres are linked to the main hospital via skype with vision technicians able to consult and receive mentorship from the hospitals ophthalmologists. This process enables patients with more complicated conditions to be screened locally and then referred to the main hospital when necessary.
One of the areas that is benefiting from a new eye health facility is Amtoli, is a very remote area in Bangladesh and prone to natural disasters. Until their new Vision Centre arrived, there was previously no access to eye care. Those suffering from eye conditions were required to travel to Patuakhali District or Barisal City which took a considerable amount of time and money to reach. The new centre now brings quality services to their doorstep.
Earlier this year, five enthusiastic students travelled from London and Doha to Pune, India, with eye care charity Orbis. The trip was part of a journalism internship the charity runs through the support of ACS International Schools and enabled the students to view their work, learn about issues affecting those with eye conditions and to find out about Qatar Creating Vision.
Hana and Roberta from ACS Hillingdon, Lillian from ACS Egham, Ruthie from ACS Cobham and Joshua from ACS Doha, visited a range of eye care services, from the H V Desai Hospital in Pune, to a school eye care screening in the hills of Panchgani. They also visited a school for blind students and watched as 150 people had their bandages removed following cataract surgery – patients from just one morning’s surgery list. India has one of the highest blindness rates in the world; eight million people are entirely blind, of which 320,000 are children.
Joshua wrote a beautiful blog about his experience.
Through the looking glass
At first I was a bit reluctant about making this trip. What could I possibly give and receive from the experience? But, as the time drew closer the more excited I became. Admittedly, it is now all too clear that I was excited about the trip for the wrong reasons. The thought of being away on my own without my parents or any family members for the first time, coupled with having the hotel room completely to myself seemed like bliss. My parents tell me that I’ve lived my life in a protective bubble and that there’s so much more out there. I’ve always understood what they were saying to an extent and, even though I’ve travelled all over the world, I don’t believe I’ve truly looked at the world through my own eyes until now. Once we started the three hour bus trip to Pune from Mumbai my eyes opened, I gained a new clarity.
Driving through Mumbai it felt like the glass window represented the barrier between the impoverished and the privileged. The question of “why can’t they all be on the other side of the glass?” constantly bounced around in my head. On their side of the window pane people lived in rusted galvanized shacks and huts with drops of rain running through the cracks. People cleaned themselves with water from buckets surrounded by wet mud and an ocean of litter. Dilapidated buildings with plants, vines and trees crawling the walls inhabit these densely populated area. Why did I end up on this side of the glass? Most of these people weren’t’ given a chance to choose how they live. I see now we take such simple things like a bedroom with a bed for granted.
To read the rest of Joshua’s blog, click here.
On 26 July 2016, Orbis and BRAC signed an agreement to strengthen community eye health services across four districts in Bangladesh, increasing access to eye care for children. This activity forms part of our new Qatar Creating Vision initiative.
Attendees of the signing ceremony included:
● Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman of BRAC
● Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Director, Health Nutrition & Population Programme, BRAC
● Dr. Munir Ahmed, Country Director of Bangladesh, Orbis
● Mohammed Alauddin, Director of Programs, Orbis
Eye care charity Orbis, BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, and eight hospitals, will work together to improve access to eye care for children across the county over the next four years. Supported by the Qatar Fund for Development, the initiative will conduct one million eye tests, treat 100,000 children with uncorrected refracted error, and perform 10,200 eye surgeries.
In collaboration with Qatar Creating Vision partners, BRAC will strengthen community interventions in the Mymensingh, Dinajpur, Khulna and Comilla areas by conducting school eye screenings and educating teachers and front line community workers about the symptoms of eye health.
Bangladesh has approximately 51,200 blind children and 1.3 million have refractive errors. An additional 153,000 children are affected by low vision problems, all of which limit their ability to receive an education.
Dr. Munir, expressed on the occasion “Together we can do more and we are already working to improve lives and livelihoods across the country. In eye health we have committed to achieving the Vision 2020 goal of eliminating avoidable blindness in children and without universal eye health coverage this would be impossible. Working with BRAC, Orbis will reach out to the children in four regions to provide quality eye care.
“We go beyond the traditional approach. We will not only build the capacity of hospitals, but work with communities, ensuring we can provide treatment for the most vulnerable group – children. They are very much top of the agenda for both BRAC and Orbis. We are thrilled by this partnership which will demonstrate the integration of eye health into the development agenda, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals as well.”
On the 26th November 2015, the Qatar Creating Vision agreement was officially signed at the Qatari Embassy in London, ensuring that millions of eye tests and treatments could be provided to children across India and Bangladesh.
His Excellency Mr. Khalifa Bin Jassim Al-Kuwari the General Director of Qatar Fund for Development and Robert Walters, eye care charity Orbis’s special envoy to the Middle East, signed the agreement in the presence of Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex, in her role as Patron of International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
Watch the historic moment here!