This World Sight Day (12 October), international development organisation
Sightsavers is calling on global leaders to end the geographical inequity of eye health
Everyone, including remote and rural communities, women and girls, people with disabilities, should have access to the services they need. Yet the availability of eye health services and products like glasses varies across and within countries.
They are often easily accessible in urban areas but less so in other places and for marginalised
Globally, 1.1 billion people have an untreated or preventable visual impairment¹. In Zimbabwe, there were an estimated 2 million people with vision loss in 2020 ² and only 1.7 ophthalmologists per million people². This is lower than the World Health Organization’s minimum recommendation of 4 ophthalmologists per million³ Women account for more than half of blindness and visual impairment across the
Compared to people without disabilities, people with disabilities are also three
times less likely to get the healthcare they need `4.
Peter Bare, Country Director at Sightsavers comments: “Eye health should be equally
available to everyone, no one should be disadvantaged because of where they live,
their gender, health, or background. But currently it is inaccessible for some sectors of society and even a luxury for those in urban areas.
“This needs to change. When we tackle these issues, children can learn, and adults
can earn. Eye health equals a ripple effect on the lives of individuals, families, and
communities, helping nations to thrive and reducing poverty and inequality.”
Governments are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), a set of United Nations (UN) goals which aim to reduce global poverty and inequality and protect the planet. They include a target to achieve universal health
IAL coverage (UHC), ensuring everyone has access to health services. In 2021, global
leaders also unanimously adopted the UN ‘Vision for Everyone’ resolution, which
explicitly links eye health to all the SDGs.
To achieve the goals and resolution, inclusive eye health is essential. Unless it is recognised as a vital part of healthcare and development, efforts to achieve the SDGs and UHC will fail. Indeed, the World Health Organization reported in September that
“the world is off track to make significant progress towards universal health
coverage” and that improvements to health services coverage have stagnated5.
The impact of inclusive eye health can be seen through stories such as Fibion from
Gokwe North. After years of blindness, he was resigned to a life with no vision,
relying on his grandchildren to help him do basic tasks. He could no longer provide
for his family and spent most of his days sitting at home.
A relative, told him that Sightsavers and eye care specialists were conducting free
examinations and surgeries in Binga. Fibion travelled there with Darlington’s support.
He was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes and has since had an operation on one eye.
Fibion was jubilant upon removal of the bandages that he had regained the lost
vision. “I was so excited at the prospect of seeing again. I cannot believe I needed an
assistant to get here, but now I will be able to travel back on my own. I cannot wait to
see my grandchildren’s faces again.”
Sightsavers and the Ministry of Health and Child Care are also marking World Sight
Day by conducting a commemoration event in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province, on Thursday the 19th of October. Among several activities, there will be free eye examinations and provision of glasses for community members.
Peter continues: “We are already working with the government and other partners to
improve eye health services and we commend their efforts. But more needs to be done to ensure eye health is represented in health planning, resourcing, and funding.
Including people with disabilities, women, and other marginalised groups, community
outreach, and a geographically spread workforce, will help reduce disparity of access.”