Rose Marie Harris
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 – Many of the world’s developing countries
are now faced with the challenge of preventing blindness of its population by
the year 2020. This mandate has come to the fore as countries around the world
held activities in October in observance of blindness prevention.
The Saint Lucian Blind Welfare Association, last week, joined the rest of the
world in celebrating two major events in the lives of blind people: World Sight
Day and White Cane Day. Patron of the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association,
Saint Lucia’s Governor General Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy explained
that the commemoration of the two events means that the Saint Lucia Blind
Welfare Association has endorsed the goal set by the Caribbean Council for the
Blind of heightening awareness and education throughout the region, about sight
restoration and preventable blindness. In a statement to the nation in
observance of the World Sight Day, Dame Pearlette said there must be increased
effort to encourage continuous support for the global initiative called Vision
2020: The Right to Sight.
“Vision 2020: The Right to Sight is a global initiative of the International
Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and the World Health Organisation with a
collaboration of non-governmental organisations and aims to eliminate
unnecessary blindness by the year 2020.
Dame Pearlette explains that prevention and treatment for vision loss are among
the most cost-effective health interventions currently available. “These include
cataract surgery, treatment of glaucoma, prevention of trachoma, Vitamin A for
the prevention of childhood blindness and the provision of glasses for persons
with refractive errors like myopia or short sightedness.” The government of
Saint Lucia in collaboration with the Cuban Embassy here earlier this year began
an eye screening programme which should result in over one thousand Saint
Lucians receiving free eye treatment.
The programme is being viewed as an opportunity to handle the backlog of cases
on the island. In addition it will pave the way for a more efficient clinic when
an Ophthalmologist is appointed later in the year.
The Saint Lucia/Cuba Eye Initiative dubbed the “Miracle Plan” was launched by
Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony and Cuban Ambassador
His Excellency Victor Ramirez. Already thousands of people have been seen by a
team of Cuban doctors. Some persons diagnosed and recommended for surgical
treatment have already been flown to Cuba where they have been treated.
Another initiative soon to be undertaken by the government of Saint Lucia,
towards the success of the Vision 2020 programme is an eye Health Disabilities
programme which will be unveiled when the Cuban Eye Care programme is completed.
The island’s Ministry of Health collaborated with a number of non-governmental
organisations including the National Council of and for Persons with
Disabilities and the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association to formulate the
Geared towards the 2020 vision of avoidable blindness, the Eye Health
Disabilities Programme will help train nurses in ophthalmic surgery. Government
has already identified an ophthalmologist who will be on island on a two year
contract to supervise the project.