At Operation Eyesight, our vision is the elimination of avoidable blindness in the countries where we work (India, Nepal, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia). We prevent blindness and restore sight by focusing on community eye health, hospital improvement and disease control. We are committed to the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and our work aligns with the SDGs (#’s 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 17).
Sadly, 80 percent of blindness is avoidable, and for millions of people in developing countries, blindness is a reality due to poverty, lack of eye health awareness and education and lack of access to eye health services.
As a Calgary-based international development organization, we believe in providing the “best for the poorest,” regardless of age, gender, race, caste, religion or ability to pay (SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To accomplish our goals, we partner with local hospitals, governments and organizations, and other eye health INGOs (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals).
We’ve developed a unique, sustainable model — our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program — that integrates primary eye care into primary health care, providing communities with access to eye care services (SDG #3 good health and well-being). Our goal is to not only improve people’s eye health, but their general health as well. We empower communities to take responsibility and ownership of their eye health and general health needs. This ensures that quality eye care services are available to those who need it even after our programmes are completed.
In developing countries, blindness can be a death sentence. Without sight, people are robbed of their ability to provide for themselves and their family (SDG #1 no poverty). When people can see, they can work and go to school. By preventing blindness and restoring sight, we break the cycle of poverty by helping entire families escape impoverishment.
We also train women in the community as community health workers and empower them to find solutions to their communities’ eye health needs. This provides them with a means to earn an income, increase their status within their families and contribute to society (SDG #5 gender equality; SDG #1 no poverty).
In many developing countries, women and girls are the family caregivers. When a mother goes blind, it is the eldest daughter who is often forced to quit school and take care of her family. When a mother’s sight is restored, she can continue as the primary caregiver, allowing her daughter to return to school and create a brighter future for herself, just like her male counterparts (SDG #4 quality education).
In Africa, we are working to eliminate the blinding eye disease trachoma, caused by a bacterial infection which is easily spread due to unsafe sanitation practices. With our partners, we’ve introduced community-led sanitation programs which include drilling boreholes to provide clean water and constructing latrines (SDG #6 clean water and sanitation). The boreholes are closer to home, which means girls can spend more time at school and less time fetching water (/SDG #4 quality education/SDG #5 gender equality). With a source of water nearby, families can also grow vegetable gardens and raise livestock, which leads to better nutrition (SDG #3 good health and well-being).
Operation Eyesight has positively impacted the people and communities we serve since our founding in 1963. Our philosophy is the “best for the poorest” and we’ve developed our work over the years from treating cataracts, to include treatment of glaucoma, refractive error (the need for eyeglasses), and eye diseases. We have shifted our focus to deal with the root causes of avoidable blindness and improving general health. Our work is focused in three main areas — community eye health, hospital improvement and disease control — and we’ve made significant progress.
We’re creating lasting impact through our unique model ─ Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program (HBCEHP) ─ that is proving sustainable. This model is based on a collaboration with existing partner hospitals, that we first launched in India and have been successful in eliminating avoidable blindness on a sustainable basis from our target communities.
Through this program, we help our partner hospitals increase the capacity and quality of eye care services, upgrade existing facilities, help our partners establish new eye units or vision centres, and train local community health workers. In addition, we’ve established 115 permanent Vision Centres in India that are delivering quality, sustainable eye care services within the communities, and 95 percent have become financially self-sustainable (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals). We’ve replicated this successful model with many partner hospitals, and we are approached by other organizations to provide our advice and expertise.
Last year we screened 3.3 million patients through hospitals, community outreach programs and school screenings, effectively reaching people at the community level and providing quality eye health care services along with general health education (SDG #3 good health and well-being). We also trained 3,919 frontline staff/volunteers, many of them women (SDG #5 gender equality), in primary eye health, effectively integrating primary eye health care into primary health care.
To date we’ve declared 617 villages avoidable blindness-free, helping break the cycle of poverty and freeing people from impoverishment due to avoidable blindness (SDG #1 no poverty/#4 quality education).
Our Kenya Trachoma Elimination Project, supported by our partner Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals) was wildly successful last year. In fact, the active search for TT (trachomatous trichiasis) patients was halted mid-2017 because the number of patients with TT decreased. This is partly due to our mass distributions of antibiotics. After another distribution, 2017 brought us within blinking distance of achieving our goal of less than one person with TT in a population of 1,000. An impact assessment will be conducted in 2018 (SGD #3 good health and well-being).
The project is based in Narok County where active trachoma is high. In 2017 we introduced face washing and hygiene education into 15 schools. Each student received a face-washing kit.
Our trained community health workers educated people in the villages where the schools are located on the importance of facial cleanliness and good hygiene (SDG #4 Quality education). Particular focus was given to mothers of children under nine.
In addition to facial cleanliness, we held open forums on environmental improvement (SDG #4 quality education). These forums encourage villagers to take responsibility for their community sanitation. Empowered through education, we saw various communities initiate the building of 101 latrines in 2017 (SDG #6 clean water and sanitation). With each latrine, washing stations are built at various points along the structures.
Supported by Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing initiative, mid2017 saw the start of our Kirinyaga Community Eye Health Project. With our partner Kerugoya County Referral Hospital we targeted 150 villages to educate community members on the importance of eye health care.
Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, we drilled 21 new water wells in Zambia’s Sinazongwe, Luano and Ngabwe districts last year. The new wells are serving a population of more than 7,750 people. This brings our total count to 106 wells, serving more than 26,500 people. To maintain the new pumps at each well, we trained 33 community area pump minders. These pump minders also helped rehabilitate three broken boreholes. We also helped supply tool kits to facilitate the area pump minders in servicing and maintaining the community boreholes. Training people in the community to maintain their wells empowers them to change and improve their sanitation habits (SDG #6 clean water and sanitation)
Last year in Ghana we examined over 590,000 patients for eye health issues through our community eye health model, our partner hospitals performed over 3,500 sight-restoring surgeries and over 900 pairs of new prescription eyeglasses were dispensed to children, women and men regardless of their gender, or ability to pay (SDG #1 no poverty, SDG #5 reduced inequalities, SDG #3 good health and well-being).
Last year in Nepal, our partner hospitals screened more than 270,000 patients, dispensed over 34,000 pairs of new prescription eyeglasses and performed over 17,000 sight-saving surgeries, all regardless of age, gender, race, caste, religion or ability to pay (SDG #10 reduced inequalities).
Also in Nepal last year, thanks to Gerald A. Cooper-Key Foundation and the Koehle Family Trust (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals), we established three new Vision Centres, and these are permanent facilities. Each Vision Centre is now financially self-sustaining and provides eye care services in areas where none existed. Also, with Gerald A. Cooper-Key Foundation support, we’re proud to announce the inauguration of the upgraded out-patient department at Fateh-Bal Eye Hospital last year (SDG #3 Good Health & Well-Being) .
To further build the capacity of India’s eye health workforce, we also conducted 24 workshops and training programs for over 2,000 eye health professionals (SDG #4 quality education).
Our strategic action plan looks forward to 2020, and Operation Eyesight has three main goals:
1. Focus on vulnerable populations and communities in the geographic areas we serve, and improve eye health-seeking behaviours by 2020 (SDG #3 good health and well-being/SDG #4 quality education/SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To achieve this, we’ll:
2. Partner with hospitals to deliver quality and enhanced eye health services on a sustainable basis (SDG #3 good health and well-being/ SDG #17 partnerships for the goals). To achieve this, we’ll:
3. Acquire the resources necessary to fulfil our strategic plan (SDG #1 no poverty/SDG #3 good health and well-being/SDG #4 quality education/ SDG #5 gender equality/ SDG #6 clean water and sanitation/ SDG #17 partnerships for the goals/SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To achieve this, we’ll:
Operation Eyesight values collaborative partnerships and has been actively seeking out and engaging with partners since our founding in 1963.
We work with the health ministries in all our countries of work: India, Nepal, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. In addition, we partner with local hospitals, organizations and corporations, as well as other INGOs. Some of our partners include:
We also work extensively with private donors in Canada, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom. We would not be able to accomplish what we have so far without our partners. We are a member of various consortiums, coalitions and umbrella organizations working to eliminate avoidable blindness, and we consider each of our supporters – from Canada and around the world – a partner in the fight against avoidable blindness.
We will continue expanding our partnership network in each new country we enter.