Dear Seva Canada Supporters,
For those of us interested or involved in the global fight against blindness, 2020 is an important year. This is the year when the main causes of preventable and treatable blindness were to have been eliminated. In 1999, VISION 2020 was launched by the World Health Organization and over 20 non-government organizations, including Seva Canada, dedicated themselves to the prevention and management of blindness.
Worldwide, we haven’t done what we hoped we would. Why not? There are many competing priorities in health and a lack of understanding of poor vision’s impact on people’s broader socioeconomic outcomes. Poor vision can have a deep impact on education and work opportunities, but its urgency is overshadowed by infectious diseases, natural disasters, famine, and political instability. Even in situations where relevant government ministries understand the importance of eye care and are eager to address it, they are often faced with questions on what to do, where to start, and how to increase access to eye care services. It’s not as simple as giving away free glasses or flying in foreigners to do surgery. Health interventions require substantial local investment in infrastructure, training and population-level behavior change.
While some countries have almost reached VISION 2020’s goal, most have not. Eye care organizations have made enormous gains in the fight against blindness and visual impairment. People living in remote and rural area have far greater access to high-quality eye care and the focus on reaching women and girls has lessened the gender disparity in the treatment of blindness.
We are clearly moving in the right direction with high-quality, financially sustainable eye care services provided by locally trained professionals. However, if we are to achieve our goal of a world free of avoidable blindness, we must accelerate expansion of successful eye care programs to meet population needs and take better advantage of government health systems, albeit often very poorly funded in most low-income settings. More and more, we need to introduce local funding innovations for revenue generation while still serving the poor. Only then will preventable and treatable blindness be eradicated.