25.10.2016 Inclusive eye health for all

Continuing our blog series for the 10th IAPB General Assembly (10GA), David Lewis OAM, Strategic Programmes Director, CBM Australia, writes about CBM’s experiences on inclusive eye health over the years.

I was sad to note the passing of a great pioneer of Community Ophthalmology in Asia, Professor Kazuichi Konyama, in June 2016. At VISION 2020’s launch in Vietnam in 2004, I recall him emphasising, ‘Every human being on the planet has the right to access quality eye health services’.

I was reminded of my work with CBM in West Africa in the 1990s. Working there was a great privilege, and yet, could also be very discouraging. Alongside some wonderful outcomes, we also encountered enormous need which we could not meet, and saw the destruction of vital services by the war in Sierra Leone.

Meeting Mariama, a young mother with bi-lateral cataracts in a remote Sierra Leonean village in 1992 was a profound experience for me. Mariama had not only developed cataracts in her mid-thirties and been totally blind for three years; she had also been profoundly deaf since she was a small child. We of course ensured that Mariama received cataract surgery, but her life could have turned out very differently. Without CBM’s partner community programme and eye hospital, Mariama may never have accessed the services she needed.  It is experiences like these, which make all of us connected with IAPB strive for a world where the most marginalised people can access quality services: This is both their need and their right.

Mariama’s condition is not unique; one billion people in the world– 15% of the world’s population—live with disability, including vision impairment. In 2009, CBM began a journey in Inclusive Eye Health. We tested approaches focused on strengthening good existing work in Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, Indonesia and other countries.

By 2014, we were ready to share some of what we had learnt about inclusive practices with our partners and friends around the world. CBM launched Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programmes, co-branded with IAPB and 13 other member agencies.

The guide helps address two key issues for people with disability:

  • How to make eye care services accessible and inclusive
  • How to assist people with permanent vision loss

In this context, CBM is proud to sponsor the GA course: ‘Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programmes’. The course will explore up to date case studies from committed partners and IAPB member agencies around the world. We will consider a range of factors causing marginalisation, including disability, gender, age, ethnicity, religious minority, poverty, geographic isolation, access to education, and also how these factors intersect. Importantly, the course will bring practical solutions and discussions to strengthening inclusive practice in eye health programmes.

Please do attend the course, so we can strengthen our approaches together.

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