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World Sight Day (WSD) this year provided an opportunity for Seeing is Believing project teams to reach some of the hardest to reach groups in Pakistan to help ensure universal eye health.
The team from the SiB supported project “A new vision for eye health in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province” observed World Sight Day with Great Spirit in all project districts – Haripur, Mansehra, Swabi and Swat.
Activities were focused on some of the most marginalised, neglected and ultra-poor segments of society including transgender people, persons with disabilities, children and refugees. These activities involved key stakeholders, including community leaders, government departments, NGOs, elected representatives, media and service providers.
The range of activities included:
Awareness raising sessions/walks
Awareness raising sessions/walks were organised in all project districts involving elected representatives, officials of health and education departments, students and community members. Tehsil Nazim, an elected representative of local government at sub-district level, joined an awareness raising walk, and told the media: “Eyes are ALLAH’s blessing as they connect us to the world. We should take care of this blessing to prevent blindness”.
Screening Sessions for school children
Evidence from our previous projects shows that parents are either unaware of their children’s refractive errors or have not prioritised eye checks for their children. As a result, only one-sixth of children with refractive errors have eyeglasses. Project teams organised screening sessions for school children on WSD and screened more than 1,200 students for eye ailments.
Screening session for persons with disabilities
Two screening activities for disabled people were organised in the districts of Haripur and Mansehra, in collaboration with an INGO Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) and the Department of Social Welfare. 433 persons with disabilities were screened for eye ailments and those identified with eye diseases were referred to secondary hospitals.
Screening session for refugees and prisoners
The project team in Swabi district organised a screening camp for 142 Afghan refugees, while in Haripur district, the team organised screening session for prisoners of the central jail. Patients identified with eye ailments were referred to District Headquarters hospitals.
Screening session for Transgender people
The transgender community is one of the most neglected groups in Pakistan, and faces barriers including discriminatory attitudes, harassment, and rejection by their own families. Although the Government of Pakistan passed the “Transgender Persons Protection of Rights Act 2018” it will take time for changes to occur. The project team in Haripur district organised a screening camp for the transgender community on WSD 2018.
All the activities ensured the project and partners were visible, including Standard Chartered Bank and IAPB, with the use of banners and posters showing the organisations logos. Events were covered by local print and electronic media including newspapers, Radio and TV.
Itfaq Khaliq Khan,
Sightsavers Senior Program Officer Pakistan
Fred Hollows Foundation Project Officer Pakistan
Community health workers conducting a health education session in Sarupathar VBCEHP in the Assam state of India.