Let us open our eyes on blindness (PE nr. 1078)

the NGO that restores eyesight


Eye Care – Dieter Telemans

Blindness and visual impairment remain largely unknown to the public at large. Yet, these conditions involve nearly 285 million people worldwide, 39 million of whom are blind. It is all the more dramatic because more than 80% of all cases of blindness could be prevented or cured. Focusing on the global issue of avoidable blindness is precisely the core mission of the Belgian NGO, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD.

Eye care for all

The Belgian NGO LIGHT FOR THE WORLD has been striving for nearly 20 years to improve the quality of life of people with sight impairment. How? By making eye care accessible to the most vulnerable populations, by setting up eye units in the regions with the greatest needs. LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Belgium developed a blueprint that can serve as a model for eye units, allowing them to tackle blindness in a sustainable and holistic way. The model encompasses many different aspects such as awareness raising and carrying out field missions in order to trace and identify patients. They also provide eye care and eye surgeries as well as organizing medical training for local personnel and making high quality medical equipment available. The NGO is working closely with local partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

In 2015, the partner clinics of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Belgium held 173,408 consultations and performed 19,191 eye surgeries.

80% of all cases of blindness could be prevented. Blindness is not a fatality. The fact is that 80% of all cases of blindness and visual impairment is treatable and can be prevented at little cost. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in Africa. Of the more than 39 million blind people worldwide, approximately 50% are blind due to cataracts. In the Western world, cataract is a common condition that most often occurs in the elderly. However, in Africa, the disease also affects children. Yet the condition is easily treatable; cataract surgery costs only 40 € for an adult and 135 € for a child. Cataract surgery is an extremely cost-effective procedure. It is quite cheap and dramatically changes the patient’s life and that of his/her family.

Inclusive education

The second pillar of the strategy articulated by LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Belgium is education for blind and visually impaired children. There are approximately 19 million children with impaired sight around the world and 1.4 million of them are blind. In developing countries, only 2% of the children with such a disability have access to education.

Blind and visually impaired children are often stigmatised because of their condition. They are treated like second-class citizens. The technical and educational tools needed for the education of these children are rarely available in the vast majority of the schools. Consequently, blind and visually impaired children are denied access to the educational system and to any hope for a better future.

In order to remedy this disastrous situation and to challenge prejudices, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Belgium is working closely with schools in order to introduce and develop inclusive education. Blind and visually impaired children are welcomed by their neighbourhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes (as opposed to specialized schools) and are taught together with sighted children. If need be, learning aids such as magnifying glasses, or writing frames are provided. Specially trained teachers help the integration process by supporting the children, the teachers and parents.

Inclusive education gives children with impaired sight the opportunity to develop their full social and educational potential. Moreover, they remain visible in their community.

LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Belgium is supporting inclusive education projects in Tanzania (Dodoma and Morogoro regions) and in DR Congo (Lubumbashi). Now, 419 blind and visually impaired children have been enrolled in the inclusive education programme.

More info www.lightfortheworld.be

International organization, 19 countries, 181 projects

The Belgian organization is part of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD international, a rapidly growing international organization with 11 members in Europe and Africa (Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Germany, Mozambique, Netherlands, South Sudan, Switzerland, United Kingdom).

With its 181 projects in 19 different countries, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD is committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in order to allow them to exercise fully their rights. It is dedicated to fighting for an inclusive society for all, where no one is left behind.

In 2015, more than 1.3 million people could participate in the different programmes set up by the members of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD. There are programmes aiming at eradicating trachoma in Ethiopia and Mozambique, at inclusive education in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, at helping refugees with disabilities in the Lebanon, at vocational training for disabled people in Tanzania and Rwanda, at functional rehabilitation of children with disabilities in Burkina Faso, etc.

This international network makes it possible to develop a wide expertise in the field and to initiate lobbying of public authorities and governments, advocating the rights of people with disabilities.

More info on www.light-for-the-world.org/light-for-the-world

Communication Service of Light-for-the-world 
(Petit Echo nr. 1078)

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