Visual impairment and blindness is a serious public health problem in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (South East Asia). While they have made significant strides in trachoma elimination; cataract still remains a problem, responsible for 60% of all blindness.
The National Eye Heath Plan 2017-2021(NEPH), the country’s first national strategic plan for eye health was launched on 23 March 2017. It will guide and align the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) and other stakeholders to significantly reduce avoidable blindness and address vision impairment in Myanmar.
In 2015, the Ministry of Health, Myanmar conducted a two-day workshop to operationalize the WHO Global Action Plan (GAP) 2014-2019. The workshop was supported by the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and The Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF). It was attended by all eye health stakeholders in Myanmar including the WHO country office. In the workshop a number of recommendations were made to operationalize WHO GAP at the national level with two milestone decisions:
1. To revise the existing strategic plan on eye health to align with the goal and objectives of WHO, GAP 2014-2019.
2. Myanmar needs to carry out an epidemiologically sound, nationally representative blindness survey to generate fresh evidence on magnitude and causes of visual impairment and blindness in the country.
A few days ago the first objective saw fruitition: The Fred Hollows Foundation, along with IAPB and other eye health stakeholders, assisted the Ministry of Health Myanmar in the development of the plan.
The purpose of Myanmar’s National Eye Health Plan is “to improve access to comprehensive and quality eye care services by strengthening the eye care system in order to reduce avoidable Visual impairment by 25% by year 2020”.
The NEHP is in line with, and aims to integrate into, the Myanmar National Health Plan 2017 – 2021. It also addresses relevant initiatives such as the current development of the Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS), key elements of the Myanmar Health Vision 2030 strategy of moving towards universal health coverage.
The National Eye Health Plan showcases the actions needed, the targets to be achieved and the resource mobilization required to attain the goal and objectives of the GAP at the national level eye health programmes. This document will definitely help Myanmar for advocacy in eye health, leverage resources and streamline the ongoing eye care services, ultimately reducing the burden of unnecessary blindness in the country.
This is a key milestone in Myanmar’s journey towards avoidable blindness and I congratulate everybody involved in this process.