Celebrate World Sight Day and help to prevent blindness

TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - World Sight Day, celebrated on October 8th, is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue. World Sight Day is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) under the global initiative of VISION 2020. This year, the theme for World Sight Day is Gender and Eye Health.

Why is blindness so prevalent for women and children in the developing world? Women and children face a greater risk of vision loss as a result of men's ability to access eye care services twice as often as women. In essence, two-thirds of blind people around the globe are women and girls. Blindness has become a barrier towards women's independence and their meaningful contribution to their family and community at large.

Blindness has many causes, among them are sanitation, water and nutrition. The lack of access to reliable and affordable health care results in cataracts and trachoma advancing to the stage of blindness. The good news is that 80 per cent of blindness in the developing world can be prevented, in which effective strategies can also successfully address the inequality of eye care services between men and women.

Operation Eyesight Universal is currently drilling wells in Kenya's Narok District as part of their Trachoma control project launched in 2007, and is implementing the World Health Organization's full SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma. The SAFE strategy includes clear guidelines for Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and Environmental Infrastructures which consists of the building of wells and latrines to eliminate re-infection.

Operation Eyesight's ultimate goal is to eliminate blinding trachoma from this region for men, women and children. The provision of clean water will improve sanitary conditions in the communities, eliminate the potential for infection, and allow women to continually contribute to their families.

Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by bacterial infection and is easily spread. The disease progresses gradually until scarring from prolonged infection causes the eyelashes to turn inward and scratch the cornea, leading slowly and painfully to complete blindness. In the developing world, about 80 million people are affected by trachoma and over 8 million suffer the late painful stage of the disease.

Operation Eyesight Universal is an international development organization dedicated to preventing and treating blindness in low income countries for more than 40 years - primarily in South Asia and Africa. We help local medical professionals provide comprehensive, sustainable eye care and community development for the people of the world who can least afford it. Since 1963, Operation Eyesight has prevented blindness in more than 35 million people. For more information, visit www.operationeyesight.com.

VISION 2020: The Right to Sight is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations. VISION 2020's mission is to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020 by facilitating the planning, development and implementation of sustainable national eye care programmes based on the three core strategies of disease control, human resource development and infrastructure and technology, incorporating the principles of primary health care.

Images, case studies and interviews available upon request.


For further information: For further information: Lindsay O'Connor, Head of International Media, Operation Eyesight Universal, Office: (416) 438-7280, Mobile: (647) 404-4469, oconnor@operationeyesight.com

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