As an international organization whose mission it is to restore and preserve the sight of communities in need around the globe, you could say that every day is technically a “World Sight Day” for us. Still, when IAPB asked us to reflect on this special day, we thought long and hard about what it really means for us.
We’ve seen how access to eye care can change the entire outlook for a family, community and nation – sight enables education, employment, you name it. It’s why, for 45 years, Seva and partners have worked to create a robust, self-sustaining ecosystem of eye care services, often in areas where none existed before. An astonishing 57 million people have received Seva-supported eye care services through this network over time. In the last four months alone, Seva and partners screened 1 million people as part of IAPB’s pledge to screen 10 million people before October 12.
How is it all possible, you may wonder? By co-creating sustainable and locally-led eye care solutions with the communities we are serving. This teamwork is essential to ensure that our interventions thrive in the difficult environments where eye care is most needed. This past year, our collaborations resulted in the field-testing of our new revolutionary diagnostic wide-field retinal camera in India, Mozambique, Thailand, and Ukraine; the establishment of 27 new Vision Centers (creating access to eye care for over 3.5 million people); and multiple quality and safety training sessions that were conducted to assure the standards of hospital environments and care.
None of this is possible without the commitment of partners and staff motivated to help others achieve their full potential. This is what World Sight Day is about: celebrating the millions of people who’ve regained their sight over the past year and the dedicated teams who make all possible, all the while recommitting to the work that remains in achieving a world free of avoidable blindness.
At Seva, to mark World Sight Day, we run an annual fundraising campaign, generously matched by a Seva donor, to support vital eye care services for underserved communities. In the morning, we’ll gather partners from across time zones to reflect on what inspires them about our shared mission. They’ll then go on to host special screenings in their communities.
We’ll also circle around and reflect on “what’s next?” How will our plans today get us to a future with access to eye care for all? One thing we’re excited about to help answer that question is a study we conducted in Guatemala that underscored the intelligent economics of eye care. Vision impairment incurs a substantial recurring cost, but each dollar invested in eye care leads to noteworthy productivity gains. It’s fitting that this year’s theme for World Sight Day is “World of Work” – sight makes it possible for families to lead economically sufficient lives. This is a fact acknowledged by governments and private partners, and the case for investment in solutions like Guatemala Brillando – our first-of-its-kind plan to eliminate avoidable blindness in the nation – is becoming widely accepted in the global health agenda.
As you can see, this is a rich season of action and reflection. We’re inspired to carry on our decades-long legacy set down by scientists, doctors, and activists of transforming lives by restoring sight and are honored to serve alongside our colleagues in the global health community around the world.