In this SDG Awards 2017 entry:
Voting Category: Small-to-Medium Organization
Operation Eyesight is committed to help achieve the following SDGs:
- SDG 1: No Poverty
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
- SDG 4: Quality Education
- SDG 5: Gender Equality
- SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
- SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
- SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
At Operation Eyesight, our vision is the elimination of avoidable blindness in the countries where we work (India, Nepal, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia). We prevent blindness and restore sight by focusing on community eye health, hospital improvement and disease control. We are committed to the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and our work aligns with the SDGs (#’s 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 17).
Sadly, 80 percent of blindness is avoidable, and for millions of people in developing countries, blindness is a reality due to poverty, lack of eye health awareness and education and lack of access to eye health services.
As a Calgary-based international development organization, we believe in providing the “best for the poorest,” regardless of age, gender, race, caste, religion or ability to pay (SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To accomplish our goals, we partner with local hospitals, governments and organizations, and other eye health INGOs (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals).
We’ve developed a unique, sustainable model — our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program — that integrates primary eye care into primary health care, providing communities with access to eye care services (SDG #3 good health and well-being). Our goal is to not only improve people’s eye health, but their general health as well. We empower communities to take responsibility and ownership of their eye health and general health needs.
In developing countries, blindness can be a death sentence. Without sight, people are robbed of their ability to provide for themselves and their family (SDG #1 no poverty). When people can see, they can work and go to school. By preventing blindness and restoring sight, we break the cycle of poverty by helping entire families escape impoverishment.
We also train women in the community as community health workers and empower them to find solutions to their communities’ eye health needs. This provides them with a means to earn an income, increase their status within their families and contribute to society (SDG #5 gender equality; SDG #1 no poverty).
In many developing countries, women and girls are the family caregivers. When a mother goes blind, it is the eldest daughter who is often forced to quit school and take care of her family. When a mother’s sight is restored, she can continue as the primary caregiver, allowing her daughter to return to school and create a brighter future for herself, just like her male counterparts (SDG #4 quality education).
In Africa, we are working to eliminate the blinding eye disease trachoma, caused by a bacterial infection which is easily spread due to unsafe sanitation practices. With our partners, we’ve introduced community-led sanitation programs which include drilling boreholes to provide clean water and constructing latrines (SDG #6 clean water and sanitation). The boreholes are closer to home, which means girls can spend more time at school and less time fetching water (/SDG #4 quality education/SDG #5 gender equality). With a source of water nearby, families can also grow vegetable gardens and raise livestock, which leads to better nutrition (SDG #3 good health and well-being).
Operation Eyesight has positively impacted the people and communities we serve since our founding in 1963. Our philosophy is the “best for the poorest” and we’ve developed our work over the years from treating cataracts, to include treatment of glaucoma, refractive error (the need for eyeglasses), and eye diseases. We have shifted our focus to deal with the root causes of avoidable blindness and improving general health. Our work is focused in three main areas — community eye health, hospital improvement and disease control — and we’ve made significant progress.
We’re creating lasting impact through our unique model ─ Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program (HBCEHP) ─ that is proving sustainable. This model is based on a collaboration with existing partner hospitals, that we first launched in India and have been successful in eliminating avoidable blindness on a sustainable basis from our target communities.
Through this program, we help our partner hospitals increase the capacity and quality of eye care services, upgrade existing facilities, help our partners establish new eye units or vision centres, and train local community health workers. In addition, we’ve established 92 permanent Vision Centres in India that are delivering quality, sustainable eye care services within the communities, and 93 percent have become financially self-sustainable (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals). We’ve replicated this successful model with many partner hospitals, and we are approached by other organizations to provide our advice and expertise.
Last year we screened 3.4 million patients through hospitals, community outreach programs and school screenings, effectively reaching people at the community level and providing quality eye health care services along with general health education (SDG #3 good health and well-being). We also trained 3,919 frontline staff/volunteers, many of them women (SDG #5 gender equality), in primary eye health, effectively integrating primary eye health care into primary health care.
To date we’ve declared 308 villages avoidable blindness-free, helping break the cycle of poverty and freeing people from impoverishment due to avoidable blindness (SDG #1 no poverty/#4 quality education).
Thanks to support from Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing Programme (SDG #17 partnerships for the goals), we’ve developed many projects throughout the countries we serve, including the Child Eye Health project in Kenya. Through this project, we screened more than 67,000 children for various eye health problems and treated more than 3,000 children in 2016 (SDG #3 good health and well-being).
In Zambia in 2016, we fulfilled a third Mass Drug Administration, reaching 111,139 people with antibiotics to treat blinding trachoma. We also drilled 22 new boreholes in Sinazongwe, providing clean water for thousands of people (SDG #6 clean water and sanitation).
Last year in Nepal, our partner hospitals screened more than 250,000 patients, dispensed 18,000 pairs of new prescription eyeglasses and performed 15,700 sight-saving surgeries, all regardless of age, gender, race, caste, religion or ability to pay (SDG #10 reduced inequalities).
To further build the capacity of India’s eye health workforce, we also conducted 24 workshops and training programs for over 2,000 eye health professionals (SDG #4 quality education).
Our strategic action plan looks forward to 2020, and Operation Eyesight has three main goals:
1. Focus on vulnerable populations and communities in the geographic areas we serve, and improve eye health-seeking behaviours by 2020 (SDG #3 good health and well-being/SDG #4 quality education/SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To achieve this, we’ll:
- Inform more than 12 million individuals about primary eye health;
- Train an additional 15,000 individuals in primary eye health; and
- Implement the World Health Organization’s SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma in five districts/countries.
2. Partner with hospitals to deliver quality and enhanced eye health services on a sustainable basis (SDG #3 good health and well-being/ SDG #17 partnerships for the goals). To achieve this, we’ll:
- Actively examine patients through our hospital networks and double the number of examinations from 1,440,000 in 2016 to more than 3 million in 2020; and
- Increase patient examinations through outreach programs, school screenings and Hospital-Based Community Eye Health programs by 17 percent per year.
3. Acquire the resources necessary to fulfil our strategic plan (SDG #1 no poverty/SDG #3 good health and well-being/SDG #4 quality education/ SDG #5 gender equality/ SDG #6 clean water and sanitation/ SDG #17 partnerships for the goals/SDG #10 reduced inequalities). To achieve this, we’ll:
- Advocate for eye health in developing countries by actively pursuing governments at all levels and seeking their investment of time, talent and resources for national eye health
Operation Eyesight values collaborative partnerships and has been actively seeking out and engaging with partners since our founding in 1963.
We work with the health ministries in all our countries of work: India, Nepal, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. In addition, we partner with local hospitals, organizations and corporations, as well as other INGOs. Some of our partners include:
- District and regional hospitals in the countries we serve;
- Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd.;
- Vision 2020: The Right to Sight;
- Global Affairs Canada;
- Himalayan Cataract Project;
- International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB);
- L V Prasad Eye Institute;
- Optometry Giving Sight;
- Pellucid Inc.;
- Standard Chartered Bank;
- The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Fund; and
- Vitamin Angels.
We also work extensively with private donors in Canada, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom. We would not be able to accomplish what we have so far without our partners. We are a member of various consortiums, coalitions and umbrella organizations working to eliminate avoidable blindness, and we consider each of our supporters – from Canada and around the world – a partner in the fight against avoidable blindness.
We will continue expanding our partnership network in each new country we enter.