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Improving the lives of disadvantaged communities in rural Southern Ethiopia

Published: 09.06.2017

Press Release: Essilor Limited and Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) have announced a 3-year extension of their partnership programme which began in 2014 to improve access to vision care services for poor and disadvantaged communities in rural Southern Ethiopia.

VAO’s project is helping to deliver essential medical support through a partnership with two medical centres of Ethiopian charity Grarbet Tehadiso Mahber (GTM) located in the region. The charity provides eye care services for ten districts with a catchment population of over 1.6 million people.  The services are delivered at the medical centres and via outreach clinics which take vision care and screening into remote communities. Over 80% of the vision screening to date has been carried out via the outreach programme bringing tangible benefits for individuals and their communities. Spectacles are distributed free to any child needing correction and to the poorest adults with limited means. To date, over 340,000 screenings have taken place resulting in 22,000 people being equipped for the first time with life enhancing prescription spectacles. The charity also trains teachers in local schools to carry out basic vision screening helping to create legacy frameworks for future vision care services.

(picture on the Left is Andy Holliday, Director of Fundraising and communications- Vision Aid Overseas. Pictured on the right, Peter Smith, Regional Vice President- Essilor UK and Ireland)

(From left to right) Andy Holliday, Director of Fundraising and communications- Vision Aid Overseas and Peter Smith, Regional Vice President- Essilor UK and Ireland

Essilor Group is supporting the project through its Vision for Life strategic giving programme which aims to accelerate initiatives targeting poor vision through awareness raising, capacity building and the creation of basic vision care infrastructures. Announcing the continuation of the partnership, Nigel Corbett, Essilor’s Corporate Social Responsibility Director commented “we are delighted to strengthen our relationship with Vision Aid Overseas for this major initiative which is bringing huge benefits in a country now emerging from recent troubled times. By correcting refractive errors and detecting vision disorders, the programme is enhancing quality of life for children to improve their educational and future life prospects and helping the poorest adults to improve their productivity and earnings potential. Projects of this nature have significant socio-economic benefits for individuals and communities and help to alleviate poverty and create prosperity in developing countries”.

Andy Holliday, Vision Aid Overseas Director of Fundraising and Communication stated “Vision Aid Overseas is indebted to Essilor for their continuing support for this life changing partnership in Ethiopia. Visual Impairment is the world’s most common and most solvable disability. Children who cannot see properly cannot learn effectively and adults who cannot see properly are often unable to work effectively to support their families and contribute to their communities. Because of our partnership with GTM and Essilor Limited in Ethiopia, 78% of adults surveyed after receiving treatment in the form of minor surgery or the provision of glasses have reported an improvement in their quality of life and an increase in household income after treatment and 73% of children treated under the project showed improvements in their school performance since receiving the treatment. A staggering 2.5 billion people worldwide are disadvantaged simply because they do not have access to the vision correction they need and a vast majority of those affected live in the developing world.”

Over the next 3 years, the project is aiming to deliver vision screening to an additional 90,000 people and bring first time vision correction to approximately 20,000.