The current COVID-19 situation is effecting us in our home lives, and within our working lives through the projects that we are working on in order to help others.
We have reached out to our members to ask them, how it is affecting their work. We hope to keep updating this page.
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
To support CBM’s Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) partners, a “Disability Inclusive Community Action – COVID-19 Matrix” has been developed with the aim to provide community programmes guidance on possible action points in community development and mobilization in relation to COVID-19 preparedness and response.
The matrix is not intended to be a comprehensive implementation tool. It rather aims at providing brief and clear action points, that can easily be adapted to the local context and give CBID programme managers ‘keywords’ and anchors for engaging with local governments and service providers and holding them accountable.
The action points as listed in the matrix emphasize the importance of pro-active community development responses and encourage community stakeholders to work collaboratively to respond to the COVID-19 challenge.
Why do we need a COVID-19 Matrix in the first place?
This Matrix is a tool for those looking for guidance on what CBID programmes could do to more effectively support people with disabilities in their communities during these challenging times. It is well documented that people with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable population in a pandemic, as they often may not be able to fully implement the required self-protection and hygiene or might end up in inappropriate health care environments. In the current context, many people with disabilities have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 (e.g. difficulty of accessing a sink, need to touch their face more often) and may have more difficulty in acting social distancing or self-isolation (e.g. because they need to remain in close contact with other people who support them). In addition, many people with disabilities have an increased risk of developing a severe case due to underlying health conditions and they experience barriers in accessing appropriate health care and support once they have contracted COVID-19.
So far, little has been done by national governments to provide people with disabilities with the guidance and support needed to protect them during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even though many of them are part of the high-risk group.
The challenges communities face with this pandemic cannot be met by central government institutions alone. Persons with disabilities and their families, local government, community based civil society groups and private sector stakeholders also need to be actively involved. Providing access to informed and appropriate technical and financial support is key so that communities can effectively mobilize and organize to identify appropriate priorities and actions while working in partnership with local and national stakeholders. It is crucial that essential community awareness is promoted in accessible and acceptable ways, involving the targeted groups in the design and implementation of community responses.
Light for the World is a global disability & development organization, breaking down barriers to enrich society and unlock the potential among the people they serve.
The current focus countries include Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda. One of the key areas for Light for the World is to strengthen comprehensive eye health services in low-income countries. Each of the focus countries has registered confirmed covid-19 persons.
Eye health activities in all the focus countries have been greatly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. The regional colleges of ophthalmology have provided guiding principles to ophthalmologists which can be adapted to suit local circumstances.
The lockdowns have resulted in reduced traffic to hospitals in all departments. Eye clinic activities have been scaled down to respond to emergencies only and the emergency lists may vary slightly in the different countries. For example, in some hospitals all eye patients go through the emergency unit where triage is done and a decision made whether they can proceed to the eye department for further management. Until recently temperature measurement was the main screening armament; however, new information of the asymptomatic nature that the infection may take, more caution is being taken. The assumption now is that every patient presenting to the casualty department is assumed to be a covid-19 suspect until proved otherwise. Light for the World quickly responded to this need at one of the main treatment/isolation centres in Uganda by providing sanitizers and communication units so health staff don’t need to go to isolation rooms all the time but can monitor patients using intercom. It’s important to point out that procuring these items was not spared from the logistical hurdles that are in place resulting from lockdown regulations.
Covid-19 is likely to bring about significant changes in eye clinical practice. The more intimate examinations like fundoscopy using the direct ophthalmoscope may cease to be routine. The improvised (using laminating paper) extended barrier between patient and doctor is likely to become a standard part of the slit lamp. The draping of patients undergoing cataract surgery is likely to change to ensure that patient and surgeon are protected from each other.
Light for the World continues to contribute to the safety of the health personnel in all the focus countries by procuring more protective equipment and supporting Ministries of Health as best we can.
With most of the staff in the country offices working from home, Light for the World using virtual meetings is leading the process of reviewing the country programme plans with possible scenarios of how going forward in view of the covid-19 pandemic may impact our work.
Disability Inclusion in Community Development (DICD) programmes: Activities that are associated with travel or groupings of people have been suspended in all the focus countries. However, awareness raising with regard to Covid-19 for the clients is being done through radio programmes to supplement other national initiatives. Some programmes continue to give advice to clients over the phone.
Education and Communication: Awareness raising tools & information, education & communication tools are being translated to braille print and sign language (video) as is the philosophy of Light for the World to “leave no one behind”.
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 have been following the progress of the virus since the crisis in China began and when it arrived in the United States we began to seriously think about what we should do.
On March 13, our optometrists in Mexico City came together for a work meeting and were told that we were contemplated suspending our work.
On March 14, the Secretary of Education gave the instruction that the schools would be closed from March 20 to April 20, which meant that we would not be able to work during those 4 weeks.
On March 15 the president of our Council and our Director General decided that there was no point in sending our optometrists to work from March 16 to 20, and exposing them, and above all thinking of the children, for whom we work; so since March 16 we stopped operations. Our optometrists, as well as those who work in headquarters, meet at our homes.
We know that this situation will affect our goals, but nothing is more important than the health of the community.
Antes que nada mucho gusto, mi jefe, el Dir. Gral, José Antonio Dorbecker Castillo, me pidió diera respuesta al correo que enviaste. Te platico que nosotros fuimos siguiendo el comportamiento del virus desde que comenzó la crisis en China y cuando llegó a los Estados Unidos comenzamos a pensar seriamente en lo que debíamos hacer.
El día 13 de marzo concentramos a nuestros optometristas en la Ciudad de México para una reunión de trabajo y se les comentó que estuvieran pendientes pues quizá debiéramos parar operaciones en algún momento. El 14 de marzo el Secretario de Educación dió la instrucción de que las escuelas se mantendrían cerradas del 20 de marzo al 20 de abril, lo que significaba que no podríamos trabajar durante esas 4 semanas.
El día 15 de marzo el presidente de nuestro Consejo y nuestro Director General decidieron que no tenía caso enviar los siguientes 5 días a trabajar a nuestros optometristas( del 16 de marzo al 20) exponiéndolos, pero sobretodo pensando en los niños, para quienes trabajamos; por lo que desde el 16 de marzo paramos operaciones. Nuestros optometristas, así como quienes laboramos en oficinas centrales nos encontramos en nuestras casas.
Sabemos que esta situación afectará nuestras metas, pero nada es más importante que la salud de la comunidad. Escribí el mail en español, ya que así recibimos el tuyo, pero si requieres que lo envíe en inglés con gusto lo hago.
Por otro lado si necesitas alguna otra información no dudes en comunicarte conmigo.
“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
Even in times of the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic, the donation and transplantation of tissues such as the cornea of the eye can be carried out. With an adapted donor screening, further precautions and the commitment of about 80 employees, the German Society for Tissue Transplantation (DGFG) maintains the supply of safe tissue transplants for patients in Germany – because even now, eyesight must be saved! Read the post in full
For everyone’s health and safety, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other doctors are being urged to see only patents for urgent or emergent problems during the coronavirus pandemic.
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 email@example.com. 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
To support families during this pandemic, OneSight has been working on innovative ways to further our mission of helping the world see. We are excited to introduce the new Online Vision Check. With the Online Vision Check by OneSight, parents can quickly and easily learn if their kids might need a pair of glasses. Since 80% of learning in school is visual, OneSight knows that when every child can see clearly, they can learn more and gain the confidence it takes to realise their power.
We want to invite you to partner with OneSight to reach every parent in the US with this simple and powerful online tool that will fuel the potential of all our children. Thanks for your partnership in helping bring clear sight to all.
CEO Aly Bandali’s response
Aravind Eye Care System has also produced COVID 19 Clinical Protocols AECS to prevent COVID-19.
Eye Care Foundation has put together a puzzle to help us tide through the physical distancing and lockdowns — see if you can find all the right words!
The Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital has taken a variety of steps to inform their patients and visitors on the dangers of COVID-19 exposure. The hospital has developed IEC material, including leaflets that were handed out to patients.
The hospital has also taken to WhatsApp based emergency consultations and has widely publicised their WhatsApp numbers using social media…
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
The Fred Hollows Foundation has always focused on training local health staff.
In the past two years alone we’ve trained more than 100,000 doctors, nurses and community health workers.
CooperVision has been carefully monitoring the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The safety of our employees, wearers, customers, partners and communities is our top priority.
Seva Foundation had an eye on COVID-19 since January 2020 when their Executive Director, Kate Moynihan invited Dr. Larry Brilliant, Seva co-founder, and former WHO Smallpox program worker, to give a webinar to colleagues from around the world. Seva Foundation’s roots are in the smallpox program of the 1970s, as many of Seva founders worked in this successful global campaign.
In 1985, Dr. Larry Brilliant wrote the book, ‘The Management of Smallpox Eradication in India’. “These roots have informed Seva’s evidence-based approach for over 40 years in our eye health work with partners in 20 countries,” said Moynihan.
Alerted through the January webinar, Seva staff word-wide began to contact partners to ascertain levels of awareness and preparedness regarding the epidemic (later named by WHO to be a pandemic). While working to establish a long term response, Seva has taken several immediate steps to adapt to the emerging “new normal.”
Seva redesigned workshops to fit with the time availability of global staff and partners who were receiving their first stay home orders from local authorities. One five day workshop on operations research skill-building was originally planned to be in Nepal with colleagues from five countries and facilitation by faculty of the Indian Institute of Public Health Hyderabad (IIPHH). The reconfigured workshop is now held during two-hour Zoom sessions with teams from six eye care institutions in Nepal, India, and Cambodia. This multi-center research capacity building and project implementation will continue through 2020 and into mid-2021 through mostly virtual contact. The workshop is the brainchild of Seva research leads Dr. Suzanne Gilbert and Dr. Ken Bassett.
Another example of creative adaptation in the time of COVID-19 is Seva Foundation’s reshaping of ongoing infection control & quality assurance workshop series that was originally designed to be held in person. Led by Seva’s Medical Director, Dr. Chundak Tenzing, the workshop has gone virtual with teams from six Nepali eye hospitals. Noted quality expert Dr. Samina Zamindar has helped to shift the focus to COVID-19 infection control, including the process of establishing and applying Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) within the hospitals. Seva will publish our handbook from this series in May 2020.
Seva and partners have also lent their expertise as key contributors to the article, “COVID‐19 pandemic: Lessons learned and future directions” published by the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology on April 20th, 2020.
We are facing unprecedented times for everyone’s health and well-being. As an international development organization, Operation Eyesight’s mission is to prevent avoidable blindness and restore sight. A large part of our programming is community outreach and due to COVID19, our eye health programs in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have shifted to respond to the pandemic.
18 days earlier, the Indian government had issued a strict stay at home order to over one billion people in response to COVID-19. Prior to the shutdown, the VisionSpring India team had already started working from home to prepare a response in support of health care partners and low-income stakeholder communities. We understood that we had to pivot from providing eyeglasses for clear vision to responding to the global pandemic that could sweep through India’s crowded slums.
Image on top: Performing retinoscopy to screen school children in Sierra Leone by Graham Coates