Pandemic leading to alarming levels of avoidable blindness, warns Cambridge charity

International disability charity, CBM (Christian Blind Mission), based in central Cambridge, is warning that the Coronavirus pandemic is having an alarming impact on the numbers of people living avoidably blind. 

75% of the world’s blindness can be treated or prevented. The challenges accessing eye services or treatments during the pandemic, especially in low and middle income countries, are leading to more people than ever needlessly losing their sight.

Dr Monicah Bitok, CBM Global Inclusive Eye Health Advisor:

“It’s been very worrying to see the impact of Covid. In countries where the levels of blindness were already shocking, they are now even more alarming. During periods of lockdown over the past 2 years some eye health units were closed completely, only dealing with trauma cases. But when these clinics opened, patients were required to be covid tested before they came for surgery. Many of these patients cannot afford the journey in the first place from rural areas to the hospital, so to pay for a covid test on top of journey costs was impossible, and as a result many people missed out on vital sight saving operations. For many the damage has been irreversible”.

Christian overseas, disability charity CBM (Christian Blind Mission) is running a fundraising appeal to help scale up its work preventing blindness in the world’s poorest places – and wonderfully - donations before 28 April will be doubled. For every £1 donated, a group of generous funders has pledged to give £1 to support sight-saving work around the world, supporting people living in poverty.

The Light up Lives appeal will raise funds to enable people with treatable blindness to see again through sight-restoring surgery, eye treatments and glasses. Donations will help improve eye health by:

improving access to sight-restoring cataract surgery and treatment for blinding conditions like glaucoma.

reaching people at risk of blindness in remote areas, far from the nearest eye hospital, helping them access treatment before it is too late.

providing glasses and support to people with low vision so they can go to school, earn a living and be active in their communities.

equipping hospitals, training local staff and partnering with local organisations to strengthen eye health systems to ensure the maximum long-term benefit.

CBM’s Chief Executive Kirsty Smith explains:

“We’ve seen here in the UK how Covid has caused major delays in delivering urgent health services and the same has happened in low and middle income countries – where health care systems were already stretched to breaking point - the impact has been devastating. Shockingly, 3 out of 4 people who are blind, don’t need to be. Many of the conditions that cause blindness can be easily treated or prevented, but conditions like cataracts - one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide  - can be treated with an operation that can cost just £24 and take as little as 15 minutes. Devastatingly for millions of people who are living in the world’s poorest places, this treatment is simply out of reach. The Light up Lives appeal aims to reach those people who are living needlessly blind, but are unable to access the surgery or treatment that could save their sight. We are so grateful for the group of generous CBM funders, who have committed to double donations towards this appeal, helping us to reach even more people with sight-saving surgery and treatment.”

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