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2020 in Review: IAPB South-East Asia Highlights

Yuddha Sapkota lists down some of the highlights of 2020 in the IAPB South-East Asia Region.
Published: 27.11.2020
Yuddha Dhoj Sapkota IAPB South East Asia Regional Manager

The year 2020 was a crucial year for all eye health stakeholders, marking the end of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight and end of WHO Global Action Plan 2014-2019.

In 2020, we had plans to launch the World Report on Vision (WRV) in 10 countries of the SEA region focusing our advocacy actions towards:

  1. developing and implementing the post 2020 eye care strategies
  2. align national policies in line to WRV recommendation – Integrated People Centered Eye Care
  3. advocacy to align eye care with Sustainable Development Goals and universal eye health coverage.

However, COVID-19 turned everything on its head. Our work went virtual, and training now happened on webinars. However, we continue to work on setting the context for effective implementation of plans for next year such as generating evidence, sharing knowledge and protocol development, which will ultimately be useful to tackle increasing backlog of people requiring eye care services and the challenges in the year to come.

Some major highlights of the region for 2020 are as follows:

  1. WRV Country Launch Bangladesh

The Ministry of Health Bangladesh in collaboration with IAPB, WHO, IAPB members and national stakeholders on eye health conducted a national launch of WRV to operationalize its recommendations. In SEA, Bangladesh is the first WRV launch conducted on 19 and 20 January 2020. During the launch the Health Minister of Bangladesh committed to allocate adequate resources to strengthen primary eye care by addition of 500 vision centre in near future.  Following the launch, a workshop was organized to prepare the national strategic eye health plan of Bangladesh in line to recommendation of WRV.

  1. Publication of evidences in Peer Reviewed Journal

As physical meetings and international travel was restricted, that gave us spare time to work on write ups and publication of evidences generated from our last year’s work in the region.  We were able to publish the following:

  1. Refractive error study in School Children of Bhutan
  2. Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness in Rohingya Refugee camp in Bangladesh.


  1. South East Asia focused DR screening and management guidelines

One of the successful collaborations between IAPB and WHO SEARO this year was to prepare “Strengthening Diagnosis and Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy in SEA Region”. The Protocol has been approved and published by WHO SEARO.

  1. Timor-Leste National Strategic Plan on Eye Health

As part of the process of implementing the WHO Global Action Plan 2014 – 2019, IAPB, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) along with the WHO country office in Timor-Leste supported the East Timor Eye Care Programme to carry out a national blindness survey using RAAB survey methodology in 2016. The survey work was financially supported by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and IAPB extended technical support for data collection, analysis, report generation, dissemination and publication of result. The survey result revealed fresh evidence on blindness and visual impairment in Timor-Leste. The result was disseminated in collaboration with the WHO country office and the Ministry of Health Timor-Leste. During the dissemination a workshop was also organized and worked on recommendations to incorporate in the strategic plan on eye health for the country The Ministry of health, Timor-Leste approved the strategic plan for eye health services of Timor-Leste in 2020. The plan covers the period of 30 years (2021 – 2050) and provides all strategic guidelines for infrastructure development, human resource development, deployment and service delivery process and targets to meet for next 30 years.

  1. Myanmar eliminates trachoma as a public health problem

Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, has long been considered a public health problem in Myanmar, with the first Trachoma Control Project initiated in 1964 by the Ministry of Health and Sports, with support from WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Myanmar is the second country in the WHO South East Asia Region to achieve elimination and the 10th country to achieve elimination globally, following Cambodia, China, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Oman

The announcement follows annual period prevalence data from 2010 to 2015 showing that active trachoma in children under 10 years of age across all the regions and states in Myanmar ranged from 0% to 0.0537%, which is below the WHO threshold of less than 5% of trachomatous inflammation follicular in children aged 1–9 years. Surveillance has also confirmed that levels of trachomatous trichiasis, the late blinding stage of trachoma, are below the WHO threshold of less than 0.2%.

Looking ahead

In the year 2021, we plan to launch WRV in the remaining nine countries: Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste. We also plan to initiate implementation of WHO tools such as ECSAT in some countries in 2021.  A regional meeting has also been planned to monitor the WRV launch and rolling out of IPCEC in national level eye health policy and plan. We hope 2021 will be a better year for eye health work in the region.

Disclaimer: The views, ideas, technologies or policy positions in these blog posts belong to the authors and do not necessarily describe IAPB’s position or views on these matters.