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Government of Saint Lucia pursuing “Vision 2020”

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Contact: 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 programme.

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.

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