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IAPB South-East Asia region achievements from 2012-20

Published: 17.08.2021
Taraprasad Das Immediate Past Regional Chair IAPB South-East Asia
Dr Das

During my tenure as the IAPB South-East Asia Regional Chair (2012- 2020), one of the main agenda was operationalization of the WHO Global Acton Plan 2014- 2019 in national eye care programme and policy. One of the main objectives of the plan was evidence generation on blindness and visual impairment. IAPB SEA focused on these  by advocating on the need for evidence generation, providing technical support and resource mobilization for the same.

IAPB was involved in evidence generation and operational research in the region:

1. Nationwide blindness survey in Maldives

A nationwide blindness survey was carried out in Maldives using WHO’s preferred RAAB survey methodology. It was the first time in the history of Maldives a nation wide blindness survey was carried out. Based on the survey data Health Protection Agency, MoH Maldives worked out a strategic Plan for Eye Health with support of Operation Eyesight Universa

2. Nationwide blindness survey in Timor-Leste

Similarly, we supported a nationwide blindness survey in Timor-Leste using RAAB survey methodology. This was also a first in the country. Based on the survey data MoH with support from Royal Australian College of Surgeon (RACS) formulated the strategic plan on eye health 2020 – 2050 for Timor-Leste

3. Blindness survey in Bhutan

Another blindness survey in Bhutan was also carried out in 2018.. This was the second RAAB survey in the country after a gap of nine years. The RAAB survey showed the impact of ongoing eye care services in the country. The result was disseminated in collaboration with the WHO country office, Bhutan, which showed that Bhutan has achieved the WHO GAP target of 25 % reduction in blindess in 2019.

4. Bhutan School- School Eye Health

Another achievement in evidence generation in Bhutan was the School Sight Programme. In this programme, all school going (165,000) children underwent incorrect, presenting and best corrected visual acuity assessment. We also used WHO RESC protocol to estimate the visual impairment attributable to uncorrected refractive error.

5. Bangladesh- Rohingya Refugees- first RAAB

IAPB along with its members Seva Foundation and Orbis International supported the Bangladesh Government to carry out a blindness and visual impairment and eye health need survey in the Rohingya Refugee camp in 2017. The result showed a desperate need for provision and upgradation of eye care services in Cox Bazaar district. It also helped in resource mobilization by the  government and NGOs to expand eye care services to the refugee population.

6. RAAB in Afghanistan

IAPB and its member the Fred Hollows Foundation also supported Health Net TPO and Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan to carry out a RAAB survey  in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2017.

As a process of policy dialogue to adopt and for the operationalization of the WHO Global Action Plan 2014-2019, several regional and national level meeting were conducted in the region:

Regional meetings

  1. 2014- Hyderabad, India- with WHO SEARO
  2. 2015- Kathmandu, Nepal
  3. 2016- Jakarta, Indonesia
  4. 2017- Kathmandu, Nepal- CoM meeting – South East Asia Day
  5. 2018- Hyderabad, India- CoM meeting
  6. 2019- Bangkok, Thailand
  7. 2020- Kathmandu, Nepal- with WHO SEARO

Grants and partners

  1. Lions Clubs International Foundation (US$ 224277) in Maldives, Timor-Leste and Bhutan
  2. Orbis International- in Bangladesh
  3. The Fred Hollows Foundation- in Nepal
  4. The Himalayan Cataract Project- in Bhutan
  5. Seva Foundation- in Bangladesh
  6. Mission for Vision- in Bhutan
  7. Operation Eyesight – in Maldives and Sri Lanka


  1. Strengthening diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy in the South-East Asia Region. New Delhi: World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  2. Das T, Sapkota YD. Promoting technology-enabled primary eye care in South-East Asia. Community Eye Health Journal, 2021 [in Press]
  3. 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 2020; 15(12): e0243005.
  4. Takkar B, Das T, Thanksphon T, Rani PK, Thapa R, Nayar PD, Rajalakshmi R, Choudhury N, Hanutsaha P. Development of diabetic retinopathy screening guidelines in South-East Asia region using the context, challenges, and future technology. Seminars Ophthalmol, 2021, doi: 10.1080/08820538.2021.1925308
  5. Das T, Keeffe J, Sivaprasad S, Rao GN. Capacity building for universal eye health coverage in South East Asia beyond 2020. Eye 2020; 34: 1262-70. doi: 10.1038/s41433-020-0801-8.
  6. Das T, Takkar B, Sivaprasad S, Thanksphon T, Taylor H, Wiedemann P, Nemeth J, Nayar PD, Rani PK, Khandekar R. Recently updated global diabetic retinopathy screening guidelines: Commonalities, differences, and future possibilities. Eye (London) 2021; doi: 10.1038/s41433-021-01572-4
  7. Sharma IP, Lepcha NT, Lhamo T, Elwein LB, Pokharel GP, Das T, Sapkota YD, Dorji T, Peldon S. Visual impairment and refractive error in school children in Bhutan: the findings from the Bhutan School Sight Survey (BSSS 2019) PLos One 2020; 15(9) e0239117. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239117.
  8. Lepcha NT, Sharma IP, Sapkota YD, Das T, Phuntsho T, Tenzin N, Shamanna BR, Peldon S. Changing trends of blindness, visual impairment and cataract surgery in Bhutan: 2009-2018. PLoS One 2019; 14: e0216398. doi: 10.1371/ journalpone. 0216398.
  9. Das T, Ackland P, Correia M. Hanutsaha P, Mahipala P, Nukella PB, Pokharel GP, Raihan A, Rao GN, Ravilla TD, Sapkota YD, Simanjuntak G, Tenzin N, Thoufeeq U, Win T, the IAPB South East Asia Region Eye Health Study Group. Is the 2015 eye care service delivery profile in Southeast Asia closer to universal eye health need! International Ophthalmol 2018; 38: 469-80.  doi: 10.1007/s10792-017-0481
  10. Das T. Blindness and visual impairment profile and rapid assessment of avoidable blindness in South East Asia: Analysis of new data. (William J Holmes Lecture, 2017) Asia Pacific J Ophthalmol 2018; 7: 312-15. doi: 10.22608/APO.2017425
  11. Correia M, Das T, Mango J, Pereira BM, Andrade V, Limburg H, Trevelyan J, Keeffe J, Verma N, Sapkota Y. Prevalence and causes of blindness, visual impairment and cataract surgery in Timor-Leste. Clinical Ophthalmol 2017; 11: 2125-31.
  12. Thoufeeq U, Das T, Limburg H, Maharshi M, Panda L, Sil A, Shabana F, Trevelyan J, Sapkota Y. First rapid assessment of avoidable blindness (RAAB) survey in Maldives: Prevalence and causes of blindness and cataract surgery. Asia Pacific J Ophthalmol 2017; 7: 316-20.


South-East Asia Eye Health: The Systems, Practices and Challenges (Springer, Sep 2021)