We know eye health affects nearly everyone at some point in our lives. Worldwide, there are currently 1.1 billion people living with vision impairment, and hundreds of millions more have ongoing eye care needs.
Improved eye health is essential to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG for short). That means eye health is critical to achieving goals related to poverty, hunger, education, gender equality, and decent work, in addition to overall health and wellbeing. A Lancet Commission Report released earlier this year noted that the economic impact of vision impairment is massive, with a current estimated productivity loss of $411 billion per year globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on communities all around the world. Particularly in the Global South, many hospitals and patients have found their resources stretched thin while needs continue to rise. But as we like to say at Seva, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Our donors and partners stepped up to the plate to make sure that patients could still receive the vision care that they need, safely, even in these uncertain times.
Since 2008, Seva Foundation, Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology, Aravind Eye Care System, and Ophthalmology Foundation (erstwhile ICO) have organized classroom workshops for more than 500 eye care providers, across 130 hospitals in 30 countries.
Last year we launched Eyexcel 2.0, a new-and-improved version of our “Excellence in Eye Care Training” program. Eyexcel has traditionally been an annual five-day immersion workshop designed for eye hospital trainers who teach ophthalmic support staff. Eyexcel 2.0 incorporates online components designed to supplement the in-person workshops and provides an even more in-depth social learning experience than before.
Seva’s partnership with India’s Aravind Eye Hospital is one of the oldest and most productive in our history. Last year, Aravind hit a huge milestone: they opened their 100th eye care facility! About 90 of these are vision centers.
On February 27, Indian-American singing group Soor Aur Saptak (SAS) threw their 10th annual benefit concert for Seva! The event, which took place virtually this year, showcases the stunning beauty of Indian music, singing, and dancing. More than a thousand people watched the show. Viewers attended this program from the USA, India, Australia, Canada, Philippines, UAE, Czech Republic, and other places in Europe.
Ramesh is a 60-year old daily wage farmer living in Naujheel, a town in the north of India. He earns a total of $6 to $7 per day with which he supports his three sons (all of whom are out-of-work) as well as their children. But a little over a year ago, his vision began to get blurry. Working in the fields became much more difficult, and before long he needed help to perform even basic household tasks. Ramesh didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have money to see a doctor and he needed his sight to make any money.
Even in a year as challenging as 2020, Seva’s programs soared. Between June and December of last year, we supported six new vision centers. Now we’re on track to fund a total of 30 by June 30, 2021 (beating our goal of 13)! Our largest number of these new vision centers are in India; others are located in Nepal, Cambodia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. This year also marks our first vision centers in Latin America!
At Seva, from our work with eye care professionals, hospitals, and partners in over 20+ countries, we’ve witnessed first hand the transformative power of community health. By partnering directly with the communities we serve to co-create innovative eye care solutions, we can reach more people with the sight-restoring treatment they need and, in turn, transform more lives.
We believe that all children should be able to play, learn, and grow. Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.4 million children globally are blind, and 19 million live with some form of visual impairment. At Seva, we know that to create a world free of avoidable childhood blindness, we must screen children for vision impairment as early as possible and identify and provide treatment to those in need. This means meeting and screening children where they are – at schools, at home, and in their community.
An eye hospital transforms lives by restoring sight every day. But managing one is a challenging, sometimes overwhelming task. Now, imagine trying to do it in an isolated, rural part of the developing world! Where would you find administrative staff? How would you train them to use databases or manage payroll? How would you attract patients who can afford to pay for their care so that you can remain financially above-water? These are some of the critical questions that Seva’s partners have to answer as they work to provide safe long-term eye care to their communities sustainably.
Luckily, thanks to the support of donors like you, Seva and UC Berkeley have been able to help!