Nearly everyone in the world will experience an eye health issue in their lifetime. Currently, 1.1 billion people around the world live with vision loss, but in 90 percent of cases, that vision loss is avoidable. This means that through prevention activities – such as eye health education or the provision of clean water to prevent disease – or treatment – such as prescription eyeglasses or cataract surgery – nearly a billion people could have their vision restored. Unfortunately, over 90 percent of those experiencing vision loss live in low- and middle-income countries where large contingents of the population do not have access to eye care.
Every year, on the second Thursday of October, we acknowledge and celebrate World Sight Day. It’s a day to celebrate the accomplishments made in the global eye health sector, and also to acknowledge the inequalities that continue to persist and reflect on what we can all do to close that divide.
One of the biggest things to celebrate this year is that the United Nations General Assembly passed a new eye health resolution. Titled Vision for Everyone – Accelerating Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the resolution is the first agreement designed to tackle preventable sight loss to be adopted by the United Nations. It sets a target for all 193 member countries, including Canada, to ensure full access to eye care services for their populations, and to make eye health part of their nation’s journey to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
While this recognition and these goals are important, the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to set global eye health care back, affecting women and girls the most. Eye health is not just a peripheral health issue, it’s a human right. Without access to care, vision loss can significantly reduce quality of life. In most cases though, it doesn’t have to. When it comes to accessible eye care, everyone counts. Everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in school, succeed at their job, and see the faces of their friends and family.
At Operation Eyesight, our mission is to prevent blindness and restore sight. To do this, we collaborate with local ministries and health authorities in the countries where we work to address the growing need for accessible eye health care. For eye health care to be accessible, it needs to be affordable and available at the local level. Find us on social media to follow along with our World Sight Day activities, including eye screenings, vision centre inaugurations, ophthalmic training and more across Canada, India, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia.
Like with COVID-19, avoidable blindness can only be eliminated when we all work together to ensure that no one gets left behind when it comes to addressing local and global health inequities. If you would like to get involved, I encourage you to learn more about our programs and check out our newest video showcasing the work our teams do in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This World Sight Day, I also encourage you to #LoveYourEyes and pledge to get your own eyes checked.
October 13, 2021
Ashley Anderson, Communication Specialist, Operation Eyesight
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