World Sight Day celebrates giving sight to 160,000 people

Johannesburg, South Africa, 13 October, 2016: In celebration of World Sight Day this year, a new eye care program Giving Sight to Gauteng will be launched, supported by the Department of Health in collaboration with the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Standard Chartered Bank, Seeing is Believing project.

Giving Sight to Gauteng follows on as an extension to the successful program Giving Sight to Soweto active since August 2013, and will specifically target two suburbs in the Johannesburg metropolis. The two priority areas for this program are Alexandra Township and Diepsloot Township, population collectively totalling more than 160,000 people.

Access to eye care services in these townships is extremely limited and there is a drastic shortage of trained eye care nurses or optometrists to service the local eye care needs. The link between poverty and avoidable blindness is indisputable and uncorrected vision impairment causes profound economic disadvantages to individuals, their families and communities.

South Africa, as a nation, only has approximately 300 optometrists working in the public health sector to service almost 52 million people. The South African National Department of Health estimates that over 80% of the population depends upon public health care.  In response to the immense need, the Institute has been supporting the development of public health sustainable eye care solutions in under-served communities in South Africa since 1999.

The MEC for Health in Gauteng, the Honourable Ms Qedani Mahlangu welcomed the launch of the program, “When it comes to eye care, we must emphasise the importance of preventative care, instead of curative care and as such we, always advise people to undergo regular check-ups. Due to unequal distribution of resources in the past, townships such as Alexandra did not have specialised facilities, however, the opening of this eye clinic will play a significant role in providing access to appropriate facilities. The realisation of this project was necessitated by our partnership with, Brien Holden Vision Institute and Standard Charted, we are grateful for their support.”

Professor Kovin Naidoo, CEO for the Brien Holden Vision Institute spoke positively about the new program,  “We know that without an eye examination and the correct treatment, individuals are more likely to fall out of employment and education. The obvious cost is not just to the family, but also to the wider community, where lack of employment and education contributes to the downward spiral of economic instability. But by up-skilling nurses and optometrists, improving infrastructure and equipment, we aim to improve the community’s access to eye health services – allowing those in need to correct their poor vision and to participate fully in society.”

A research study conducted, in similar areas of low socioeconomic status in Durban, found that 76% of the sample population (aged over 35 years) had presbyopia (aging sight or the inability to focus on close work). Of particular interest was the finding that 11% of the sample had lost their employment because of presbyopia.

Impact figures for Giving Sight to Soweto across this designated areas of focus include screening over 280 000 people, over 77 000 members of the community where examined by an optometrist and over       21 000 spectacles and Low Vision devices where dispensed. In addition 279 health care professionals were provided with primary ye health refresher training.

Richard Etemesi, South and Southern Africa CEO for Standard Chartered Bank had this to say in relation to the bank’s role in raising funds for the projects: “We are delighted to contribute sustainably to the eradication of treatable and avoidable blindness in South Africa’s poorest communities through our Seeing is Believing project. Launched in 2003, globally, we have committed to raise USD100million between 2003 and 2020 through fundraising and the Bank’s matching funds. To date, we have invested just over USD 1.7m – about ZAR 23.8m in South Africa alone. Blindness affects the education and livelihoods of the individuals and families involved and also the economic well-being of communities. We are glad we can play a role and are grateful to all the stakeholders who partner with us to help deliver these services on the ground.”

The success of the Giving Sight to Soweto program achieved benefits in improving eye health services in Soweto and surrounding areas. The program included the following interventions, as will the new program Giving Sight to Gauteng: 

  • Infrastructure development is improved by providing basic equipment for vision screening to trained primary health care nurses, and equipment for community health centers to provide refractive errors and low vision services.
  • Workforce development: By training nurses and optometrists to deliver eye health services at clinics, community health centres and schools, capacity is developed at all levels of care to ensure the  delivery of comprehensive eye health services.
  • Delivery of services: Provision of eye health and low vision services reduce the number of people who are unnecessarily visually impaired by creating access to eye exams, much needed spectacles and low vision aids.
  • Research, monitoring and evaluating: Research conducted to obtain baseline information for planning and resource allocation as well as to improve services.
  • Eye health promotion materials will also be developed to assist in improving knowledge and health seeking behaviour.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Brien Holden Foundation acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the many lands that we live and work on, and their continuing connection to Country and culture.

Acknowledgement of Country

Brien Holden Foundation acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the many lands that we live and work on, and their continuing connection to Country and culture.

Our site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. For more details, please check our Privacy Policy.