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There are an estimated 2 million children in low income countries with severe or moderate physical disability
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World Sight Day 2013

A young boy wearing pink sunglasses and holding a toy, smiling happily, with his mother looking proudly at him
Sokah, from Cambodia, and his mother. Read his story below...

On 10 October CBM joins global partners in celebrating World Sight Day, and takes this opportunity to present its new ‘Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programs’ guide.

Universal Eye Health

A manual cover, with text 'Inclusion made easy in eye health programs' ©CBM
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. The 2013 theme is 'Universal Eye Health'.

This theme comes from the focus of a new WHO Action Plan on the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment, as explained by the The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

Following the theme CBM takes this opportunity to present its new ‘Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programs’ guide, which aims to reduce barriers to accessing eye health services for people with disabilities. The guide is co-branded with 16 other leading eye health and disability agencies.

About disability-inclusive eye health

‘Disability-inclusive eye health’  is an approach adopted by CBM and other leading agencies, which seeks to ensure access, best quality outcomes and long term improved quality of life for all eye patients and people with vision impairment. The approach builds on and captures innovation from CBM partners and others working in eye health and disability inclusion  around the world.

A short story of disability-inclusive referral in action

A young boy wearing pink sunglasses and holding a toy, smiling happily, with his mother looking proudly at him ©CBM
Sokah and his mother, Nget
Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital in Cambodia has worked hard to strengthen its disability-inclusive practices. Critical to this has been the hospital’s long-term relationship with the quality Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) project, Cambodian Development Mission for Disability (CDMD).

As a result, five year old Bok Sokah, with severe hearing and vision impairment, was referred to the hospital. Sokah was diagnosed with congenital cataracts which were successfully removed through surgery.

In addition, CBR and hospital staff worked with his mother Nget to ensure referrals for hearing tests, speech therapy and enrolment in his local school. The CBR project also helped build the school’s capacity in inclusive education.

From the time of Sokah’s birth, Nget described attitudinal barriers, which reduced her opportunity to leave him in the care of others. Since Sokah’s inclusion in school, Nget has been able to return to work and support the family’s income.

The improvement in quality of life for Sokah and his family are largely due to the strong networks and relationships existing between health, disability and education services, together with his mother’s care and commitment. This example of strengthening disability inclusive practices is one of many useful case studies in this guide.

Why should eye health programs be disability inclusive?

  • Over a billion people (about 15% of the world's population) live with some form of disability
  • Lower-income countries have a higher prevalence of disability than higher-income countries
  • People with a disability experience more barriers to accessing health services than people without a disability
Source: WHO - www.who.int/features/factfiles/disability/en/

More facts and figures on global blindness and low vision

  • Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness
  • Of these, 39 million people are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment
  • 90% of blind people live in low-income countries
  • Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable - i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable
  • Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care
  • The number of people blind from infectious causes has greatly reduced in the past 20 years
  • An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired
  • About 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises only 20% of the world's population
  • Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment
Source: IAPB

Developing affordable and accessible eye care services worldwide

Since the 1960s, CBM has played a key role in developing affordable and accessible eye care services in all regions of the world. CBM has achieved this by working closely with dedicated field partners and in close co-operation with other international eye-care organisations and national governments.

Since 1999, Vision 2020 ‘The Right to Sight’, has led to outstanding global momentum and innovation in tackling avoidable blindness and seeking improved outcomes for people with vision impairment. The governments of 195 countries have signed up to Vision 2020. As a result of this activity, projections for the number of people blind by the year 2020 have plummeted from around 76 million to just 24 million.

CBM continues to play a major role in the innovative Vision 2020 agenda.

Useful links

More reading

Community Eye Health Journal on disability and diversity

As guest editor, CBM's Diane Mulligan discusses this special issue of Community Eye Health Journal, which is on disability and diversity


Education lights up Khiem's life

Khiem lost his sight at the age of nine, but he gained confidence to study again at a CBM supported education programme


I can serve the community better

Nam’s personal and professional improvement after one year participating in the CBM supported programme


Sofía's story

Sofía's grandmother finds the way to give her a better life


VISION 2020 – A global alliance

In 1999 CBM was one of the founding organisations to launch VISION 2020, a global initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020


Important resource

Professor Allen Foster, OBE

Press release


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