Last fall, world leaders adopted the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All of us in the eye health community have an important role to play in achieving these global goals, particularly Goals 1 through 6. Read on to learn how Operation Eyesight’s work to eliminate avoidable blindness is helping transform the world.
SDG #1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings. If people can’t see, they can’t work to earn a living. By preventing blindness and restoring sight, we’re helping people keep their jobs or return to work. The more people we help, the more communities thrive and the closer we are to breaking the cycle of poverty.
We’re also helping the world end poverty through our work to eliminate the eye disease trachoma. Those blinded by trachoma get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, which in turn can destroy the economic well-being of entire communities. It’s estimated that, globally, trachoma results in US$2.9 billion in lost productivity per year. Fortunately, we’re implementing a strategy in Zambia and Kenya that’s proven effective in eliminating trachoma. Click here to learn more.
SDG #2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Did you know that malnutrition contributes to avoidable blindness? We’re particularly concerned with vitamin A deficiency, especially in children. Up to 500,000 children go blind each year as a result of this condition. Sadly, half of those children die within 12 months of going blind. We’re working to distribute vitamin A supplements to those in need. Learn more here.
SDG #3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Our programs are designed to provide quality eye care to all, regardless of age, gender or ability to pay. Through our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program, local community health workers are trained to conduct door-to-door surveys, identify eye health issues, refer patients for treatment, and educate the community on eye health and general health. As a result, we’re able to provide eye care to those who would otherwise go unreached, and communities become healthier and stronger.
#4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.
When children can see, they can read and go to school! Our school eye screening programs allow us to identify children who are struggling with low vision or other eye health issues. We can then provide them with the prescription eyeglasses or other treatment needed to restore their sight. We’ve even trained teachers in Kenya to use a smartphone app to test their students’ vision. Learn more here.
Another way we’re helping children get a quality education is by providing communities with fresh, safe water through our trachoma programs (see SDG #6 below). Clean water is scarce in many rural communities in Zambia and Kenya. Children, typically girls, are tasked with fetching water for their families, often having to walk several kilometres to the nearest source. By providing villages with a safe water source nearby, we allow children to spend their time in school rather than fetching water. Even better, a dependable water source often attracts teachers and encourages communities to build new schools!
SDG #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Our programs in India and Africa are designed to involve both men and women. In fact, almost all of the community health workers we’ve trained in India are female. We empower women to find solutions to their eye care needs and develop eye health programs that will benefit their entire community. In addition, by eliminating the threat of blindness, we improve a woman’s ability to become an active participant in her community and contribute to her family’s socioeconomic stability.
SDG #6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Providing communities with fresh water is an important part of our work to prevent blindness. In Kenya and Zambia, we develop wells and boreholes and educate communities on the importance of hygiene. With fresh water to wash their hands, faces and clothing, people are able to prevent the spread of the bacterial infection that causes blinding trachoma. Even better, improved sanitation aids in the reduction of other serious illnesses such as diarrheal disease, upper-respiratory infections and malaria. Learn more about our trachoma projects here.
Together with our donors, we’re helping the world reach its goals to end poverty, promote healthy living and ensure prosperity for everyone. With your ongoing support, we’ll continue our work to eliminate avoidable blindness, contributing to a sustainable future for us all. Thank you!