Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Sightsavers would like to reassure supporters that we are monitoring the situation closely, and doing everything we can to protect our staff and the communities in all the countries where we work.
“The world is facing an unprecedented situation and things are changing rapidly. Sightsavers is working hard to protect our beneficiaries, partners and employees in the immediate and longer term.
Our supporters are a vital part of the work Sightsavers does. We realise at this time there are many pressing concerns in everyone’s lives and we want to reassure you that we value your ongoing support and will be doing everything we can to ensure the people who need your support receive it.
We are following national and international guidance and will be flexible in the rapidly changing circumstances.
The vast majority of our staff across all countries are working from home, and we will continue to follow the advice in various countries as things evolve. We have stopped international travel in order to avoid spreading the virus. We have strong infrastructure and systems in place, all of which have been tested to ensure we can manage when our staff have to work from home. We are confident that we can keep things running during this difficult time; however, as you can imagine, it may take us a little longer than usual to respond to queries and process donations.
Following the latest national government and WHO guidelines, on-the-ground work on many of our programmes has been temporarily paused. Many of the ministries of health are diverting health workers to the COVID-19 response. We are currently assessing our programmes and we will take a project-by-project view of the impact of COVID-19 and what can be done to support the response.
We are prepared to put our resources at the disposal of all the countries where we work in the event they have a major outbreak of the virus, as we did during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
We have a strong focus on improving access to clean water, educating communities on how to keep hands and faces clean and strengthening health systems as a whole, which will be even more vital as COVID-19 spreads.
There is real concern that people with disabilities are being left out of healthcare services and we will be working hard to advocate for the rights of these people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Great progress has been made in this area in recent years and it’s vital we don’t let them be left behind now.
Sightsavers couldn’t do the work we do helping vulnerable people in some of the world’s poorest countries without the support of all our loyal supporters. We are very touched by all the messages and support we have received and we hope that you will continue to support us through this uncertain period so we can keep helping those who need us and be well-placed to accelerate our efforts when countries start to recover and we need to tackle pent-up demand.
Finally I would like to wish you and your loved ones good health through the coming weeks, and hope that we can all resume our normal lives soon.”
Global CEO at Sightsavers
Here in the U.S., in accordance with recommendations from the American Academy of Surgeons, we’ve cancelled all elective/non-urgent surgeries for approximately six weeks, and maybe longer. This includes any surgery which, if not done, would likely lead to vision loss. Similarly, clinical activities have decreased to only urgent care for most of us. Our government is now working to support more tele ophthalmology care, so we are expanding in this arena now.
We anticipate a near-term shortage of masks, gowns, gloves and similar protective equipment and have implemented these precautionary measures in part to prevent spread of COVID-19 and in part to preserve available stores of protective equipment for a possible surge in COVID – 19 patients in our hospitals. We are still ramping up our testing capacity, so are just beginning to learn of the scale of the epidemic in the U.S.
We wish would like to share our best wishes for a safe and hopefully brief experience with this outbreak. Although travel will be limited for the present, we look forward to connecting with you online and in person in the not too distant future.
Dr. Mitchell V. Brinks MD, MPH
International Ophthalmology/ Domestic Outreach
Singapore Eye Research Institute and Singapore National Eye Centre
The Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) are playing a big role in Singapore’s nation-wide response to the COVID pandemic.
Even during these difficult times, as the largest eye care provider in Singapore, SNEC continues to provide necessary and urgent care for all patients. Thus, keeping our patients and healthcare workers safe is of utmost priority – and as such, strict infection control measures that are in line with our Ministry of Health’s guidelines are carried out. These include fever, symptom and travel history screening at the triage area, adequate distancing of patients in all waiting areas, as well as isolation facilities for suspect or fever cases.
Our SNEC and SERI staff are also protected with recommended personal protection equipment at all times, including regular hand hygiene with surgical masks – and we are developing a custom-made shield for slit-lamps to protect our clinicians.
Together, SNEC and SERI will work with the rest of Singapore to overcome this pandemic through teamwork and resilience!
Dr Marcus Ang
Cornea and Refractive Service, Singapore National Eye Centre
One of our main focuses at the Ophthalmic Research Institute in the University of Tübingen is to research solutions for myopia progression management and to support optometry projects for underprivileged people, e.g. in India. In these days of the Corona crisis, we are trying to keep the people and the institution healthy. At our many labs all over the world we have cancelled all experiments where subjects or patients are involved.
We have also postponed all appointments to a later time until the situation is resolved. But that doesn’t mean that we are paralyzed and can do nothing at the moment. Besides preparing for the time after the pandemic we can do much more.
Just to give you one example, in many countries, like in Germany, there are critical shortages in blood supply. Therefore, we encouraged all of our scientists in the Ophthalmic Research Institute to donate blood. What one needs to know: (1) blood donation is safe and (2) transfusions are highly needed, not for Corona, but for organ transplants, trauma patients, and many more. One of our PhD students, Alexandra Sipatchin, organised blood donation.
In Germany, people get reimbursed with 25€ for blood donation. Every one of our donors will donate it further to Miracle of Sight, a registered charity fund which enables – in collaboration with local foundations, school, optometry colleges, the Optometry Council of India and eye clinics – local and direct help. Miracle of sight goes hand in hand with the ALOKA Vision programme of Carl Zeiss Vision Care that we partner with as a social business approach in rural India to find sustainable answers to the vision challenge to make glasses available and affordable in rural, unserved areas.
In a worldwide crisis, with blood donation we can help twofold, the people who need blood and the people who need sight.
Prof Siegfried Wahl
“We stand in solidarity with our global health colleagues around the world, and applaud the frontline health workers who are working around the clock, including some of our dedicated volunteer faculty members.
Like so many of our partners in the global eye health community, we at Orbis are facing some significant challenges during this unprecedented time. Amid all, we are keeping our sights on our number-one priority: ensuring the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, partners, and the people we treat and train.
Our commitment to our mission is unwavering as we look for ways to continue our work in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness in a safe and socially responsible way.
Although hands-on training isn’t possible in many places around the world right now, one bright light in these troubled times is the increased use of technology to connect our communities. In particular, we’re seeing our telemedicine platform, Cybersight, becoming more important than ever as a remote teaching and mentoring tool. March 2020 has been a record-breaker for seeing the most new Cybersight users in a single month, from all across the world, and we’ve also seen online course uptake double over the past six weeks. We are proud to play a part in keeping eye care professionals connected and learning through it all.”
Bob Ranck, CEO
“Life changed for me and so many others on 23 January, the day before Chinese New Year, when Wuhan went into lockdown. In typical times, I work as a staff nurse on board Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital, helping to train nurses from around the world on the best practices they should follow in the operating room and during patient recovery. I remember coming home from Ghana in December, following my last Orbis program of 2019. Everything still seemed normal then, but by the end of the month, we started to hear news about people coming down with an unknown source of pneumonia. Of course, we all know now what happened next..”
Xiao Ying Liu
Staff Nurse of Flying Eye Hospital
In the midst of the chaos that has become the new “normal,” it’s important to remember our mission at Hawaiian Eye Foundation. We remain dedicated to promoting optimal eye care through compassionate service and education. We are proud to serve the blind poor and train doctors around the world to build sustainable clinics in remote regions. Our work will continue.
In today’s uncertainty, with all of the travel restrictions and stay at home orders, we find ourselves unable to plan immediate missions. Those that were scheduled, missions and trainings established over a year ago, have had to be postponed at this time. Our office has been reduced to minimal activity to ensure that we can stay financially able to navigate these unknown waters. We are here, and we will resume our fight against curable blindness in the months ahead. Our annual Eye Meetings in SE Asia have been delayed, as well as the Training for Residents that visit the US each year as a part of the Lancaster Scholar Program. We miss the interaction with our patients and worldwide friends we have come to love as members of our ‘ohana (family). Yet, we are still here!
We will resume operations when it is safe for our staff, our volunteers and our patients. Currently we are partnering with our sister organization, Project Vision Hawaii, to provide for the needs of the homeless during this time of great stress. Our portable showers are in use, our large vans are ready to aid in deliveries of supplies, food, water and educational information to the elderly, school aged children, and houseless families on the islands. We are helping with federal SNAP applications to ensure families affected by the loss of jobs have funds for food. We continue to work with the State and City to be a part of solutions to ensure safety of our front-line responders. Nothing job is too small or task to menial. We all can help in our own way during this crisis. It could be a pledge, a phone call or a prayer! Until then, we’ll find ways to help where we can.
If there are emergency eye situations, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help refer to ophthalmologists and optometrists that are able to help. We are checking emails and phone messages. We wish to thank all those people in essential positions in our communities that are going to work each day and allowing us to continue to battle COVID-19. Our hearts and prayers are with all those on the front lines, all those affected by the virus, their families, friends and our neighbors – we are all affected by this epidemic.
Please continue to follow the CDC regulations and do your part to prevent further spread. We cherish our relationships with patients, donors, sponsors, partners and Board members. We thank you for your continuing support of our work. When this is behind us, and many find new hope for many reasons, may we all pause and give thanks. We will continue to stand firm with each of you, confident that our relationship will grow stronger through tough times and we will carry on our legacy to fight curable cataract blindness with your help. We stand strong with you!
Stay positive and stay well!
ke Akua e hoopomaikai ia oe!
Darrah and Emma
HEF’s Executive Team
CEO Aly Bandali’s response
The first cases of COVID-19 were registered in south Kyrgyzstan on March 18. The Government declared an emergency situation mode in the south on March 18 and expanded it nationwide on March 22.
Eye care units of all partner hospitals are working reduced hours accepting only emergency patients. Some of them are also short-staffed because personnel over the age of 65 are required to stay home on vacation or leave without pay. Some ophthalmologists from partner hospitals are taking care of patients with suspected coronavirus infection at an observation centers or assisting at the sanitary-quarantine posts. On April 1, partner Family Medical Centers (FMCs) in Osh region were closed, but in March FMC-based ophthalmologists were helping family doctors to fight against COVID-19. In case of increase in the number of coronavirus patients, ophthalmologists from FMCs will be sent to assist in units with coronavirus patients.
Project staff and volunteers actively involved in RCSK’s response to COVID-19. The Project volunteers are also engaged in information campaigns on prevention of coronavirus, disinfection of facilities, sewing masks, as well as packaging and distribution of food aid to vulnerable groups.
Eye Care Project Coordinator
Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan