I recently met with the Dr Khamkhoune at the National Ophthalmology Centre in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. When I asked about their priorities, he was very pleased to tell me about their plans for the implementation of 2030 In Sight. It was a reminder to me that the global strategy has really captured the imagination of our stakeholders right across the region and also a reminder of the excellent work that our IAPB members have done to embed the strategy.
The main focus of this visit to Laos, was to ask questions. After three years of pandemic, we simply can’t assume that things are the same (or can we?). Whilst we’re thinking about the implementation of the strategy, many partners and stakeholders are thinking about ways they can build back (sometimes better, sometimes just scraping through) – how do they deal with cataract surgery back-logs? How do they operate in an environment constrained by Covid-era budget cuts? How do they ensure that eye health is taken seriously amongst so many competing issues?
During the course of this week, I’ve had a chance to spend time talking to several of our members who work in Laos. I’ve had an opportunity to listen to their concerns about the challenges they face, but also their excitement regarding new initiatives (for example, they were very pleased that the Ministry of Health had taken on a mid-term review of the National Strategy). It’s really pleasing to see such progress against the backdrop of the past few years. But the fact remains that if we are to make the systemic change required to meet the goals of 2030 In Sight we have to work #stronger-together as a sector.
This week I was in Laos to listen and learn. Not to have answers. Sometimes we rush to implement changes, to hold workshops, to secure new sources of funding… and not always with the most carefully considered of approaches. So, I really want to thank the members in Laos for their good graces this week, for their patience and for embracing the idea that we will succeed with 2030 In Sight if we work #differently together.
Special shout-out to ECF for their facilitation on the ground.
Image on top: Before the operation 2, Houaphan Hospital Laos/Lia Marmelstein