To start with, I often think that those of us in prosperous countries have a hard time understanding what it’s like to live in a place with no public health care, as many developing nations can be. Imagine the impact that this has on economic development and general health.
I heard an interesting comment from G. Chandra Sekhar, the Director of the L. V. Prasad Eye Institute in India. Dr. Sekhar has a lot of experience working with the really poor people of India. He said: “Mothers who raise their children in poverty must teach them how to go to bed hungry.” Can you imagine – kids having to learn how to ignore their empty stomachs?
When you come to terms with that concept you come to terms with the extreme circumstances that some people live in – it must be terrible to endure. They survive day to day on the bit of money they can generate, often less than a dollar a day, which isn’t enough.
In my line of work, we tend to talk so much about eye care that we may miss the reasons why people go blind, or what day-to-day living can be like for the poorest people, and how mean and grim it can be.
The link between poverty and blindness is very strong. And yet a little bit of community development help can change lives dramatically. By community development I mean that which prevents eye disease – sanitation, education and basic health care that includes eye care. When they get these things into their daily lives, people move from poverty to sustainability, and even to prosperity. This is the key to preventing blindness and to greater health all around, something I have seen with my own eyes.
I believe there can be no long-term vision for a healthy community until the basic stuff is taken care of. I can’t imagine us teaching our kids to go to bed hungry, and neither can you. That’s why Operation Eyesight has added community development elements to our hospital-based activities. We’ve learned that, properly done, community development can have a huge effect without a huge investment. This is especially true with communities that want to engage with us and want to help themselves. That’s when really amazing things start to happen.
Amazing things are happening, and you can read about them here in the weeks ahead. Next week, come back to read about Africa. Lynne Dulaney, our Director of Communications, will be visiting our programs in Africa for the first time, and she’ll have some great observations to share.
Thanks for reading our blog, and thanks for giving the gift of sight.