The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Asian countries was more severe in 2021. The second wave of the pandemic had its peak in the middle of the year in terms of transmission and mortality rate in almost all SEA countries. This affected overall health systems including eye health services. The plan of policy dialogues and expansion of advocacy activities in operationalization of WHO World Report on Vision recommendation – Integrated People Centred Eye Care and embedding UHC Eye Health Indicators in national level eye care were also pushed forward. Almost all meetings, planning, knowledge sharing, and advocacy work became virtual. However, despite this we continued our efforts to alleviate eye care services and advocacy work in the region.
Evidence Generation and publication of data
It is well accepted that evidence-based advocacy and planning of eye care services are critical to its success and achieving set goals, and targets. Due to lack of evidence and data we cannot assess and monitor the outputs, outcome and impact of any intervention. The WHA assembly 73.4 which endorsed the eye health indicators for UHC has further warranted the need for such data. This is the focus of our work to generate the evidence to assess the eye health situation and provide baseline data to set the target for Insight 2030: Vision for everyone.
- The former IAPB SEA Regional Chair Dr Taraprasad Das took the lead to gather crucial information on eye health of the region with compilation, and publication of the book “South-East Asia Eye Health System, Practice and Challenges”. This book provides ample information related to eye health services of the region which are critical to assess the situation and determine way forward.
- During the pandemic period Ministry of Health, National Eye Care, Bangladesh has also completed nationwide blindness and visual impairment survey in the country. The data is due to be published soon which will pitch the path of IPEC implementation.
- Nepal has also completed its nationwide RAAB surveys earlier this year. The surveys were conducted with representative samples size for each of the seven provinces, so that survey results are epidemiologically powerful enough to generalize the findings at provincial and national level. These surveys were carried out in regular intervals and show the prevalence of blindness trends of last four decades: the prevalence of blindness in 1981 was 0.84%, the extrapolated estimation shows that in 2010 it was reduced to 0.35% and to 0.26% in 2020.
- IAPB SEA provided its technical support to Health NetTPO and Ministry of Public Health, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to carry out RAAB survey in Kabul Province a few years ago. This report has been finally published in British Medical Journal: Sapkota Y, Alizoi N, Siddiqi AM, et al. Rapid assessment of prevalence of blindness and cataract surgery in Kabul province, Afghanistan. BMJ Open Ophthalmology 2021;6:e000790. doi:10.1136/bmjophth-2021-000790.
- IAPB SEA provided technical support to carry out RAAB survey in Cox Bazaar Bangladesh among the Rohingya refugee camp a few years back. The result of the survey was published in Plos One. Hussain AHME, Ahmed M, Vincent JE, Islam J, Sapkota YD, Das T, et al. (2020) Rapid assessment of avoidable blindness and cataract surgery coverage among forcibly displaced Myanmar Nationals (Rohingya refugees) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0243005. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243005
Knowledge sharing and dissemination
- In the process of knowledge sharing IAPB SEA organized five webinars in 2021. Considering the need and priority given those webinars were as follows:
Each webinar was well attended with average participants ranging from 70 to 100 in number from 15 to 25 countries of the SEA region and globally.
WSD and Policy Dialogues
This year World Sight Day celebrations achieved new heights globally. In this celebration SEA countries pledges more than a million eye tests as well as taking part in the Everyone Counts global challenge from Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The eye test pledges includes the third gender participation in India, and outreach to the unreached people residing in base of Mount Everest and Fishtail Mountain of Nepal.
During this celebration, IAPB members including Vision 2020 India together with Ministry of health and family welfare India unveiled World Report on Vision (WRV) and extended their commitment to absorb WRV recommendation and framework – Integrated People Centred Eye Care in their national eye health plan and policy.
We have a lot more planned in 2022, and even an in-person event 2030 in Sight – Live on March 2-3 in Dubai.
Image on top: I can see my Granny’s smile/ Amaresh Kumar Pandey