Who are Sightsavers and why do we support them?
by Dave Reeder , 01 December 2020
Who are Sightsavers
Established in 1950, Sightsavers are an international charity focusing on Africa and Asia. Their vision is of a world where avoidable blindness is eliminated, and people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else.
They work with both governments and local communities to tackle avoidable blindness at the root of the problem, operating in more than 30 different countries.
Sightsavers are leader in their field and are one of nine charities ranked as 'high performance' by the UK's Department for International Development. They are also one of the US evaluator GiveWell's top charities.
What work do Sightsavers undertake?
As the name suggests, Sightsavers work is based around protecting eyesight. Sightsavers aim to prevent avoidable blindness in many ways, including by providing eye operations for those who need them.
Community volunteers help distribute medication to protect people in poor countries from diseases that cause blindness. Eye conditions they treat are cataracts and refractive error (such as short-sightedness or long-sightedness) and astigmatism. People in these countries may not have access to glasses to help them see. This is where Sighsavers come in. Other eye conditions they treat and prevent are Trachoma, River blindness, Glaucoma and Diabetic retinopathy.
You can read more about these conditions and how Sightsavers work hard to treat them here: https://www.sightsavers.org/protecting-sight/
What is the scale of these preventable sight conditions?
According to the WHO at least 1 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.
Here is some information about the diseases that Sightsavers are fighting:
Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens, leading to blurred vision and eventual blindness.
million people are blind because of cataracts
cataract operations were supported by Sightsavers in 2019
can pay for an adult cataract operation
Refractive errors are eye disorders caused by irregularity in the shape of the eye. This makes it difficult for the eyes to focus images clearly, and vision can become blurred and impaired.
of all visual impairment is caused by refractive error
million people have unadressed refractive errors
billion people have an age-related near-vision impairment
Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, and is part of a group of conditions known as neglected tropical diseases (often referred to as NTDs).
countries count trachoma as a public health problem
million people are at risk of going blind from trachoma
million people are blind or visually impaired because of the disease
River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is a parasitic infection spread by flies that live near fast-flowing rivers. It causes severe skin irritation, itching and, eventually, irreversible blindness.
million people worldwide are at risk of contracting river blindness
million people are infected. Most live in sub-Saharan Africa
million people worldwide are blind because of the disease
Lymphatic filariasis is a serious disease, with millions of people globally at risk. It can cause a range of different unpleasant symptoms, but is frequently characterised by abnormal enlargement of body parts.
million people worldwide are infected with LF
million people are incapacitated by the disease
million people are currently at risk of LF
Intestinal worms, also called ‘soil-transmitted helminth infections’ or STH, are part of a group of parasitic and bacterial conditions known as neglected tropical diseases.
billion people worldwide are infected with intestinal worms
aged about three to eight are most at risk
million school-age children live in at-risk areas
Known as bilharzia or ‘snail fever’, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasites released by freshwater snails.
million people required preventive treatment in 2018
countries require large-scale preventative treatment
million people reported to have been treated since 2012
These numbers are pretty shocking when you consider how easy it is to treat these in richer nations such as ours and that some of them don't even exist here.
Sightsavers also fight for disability rights. Find out more on their website here.
Why do we support them
It's hard to believe that such hugely common yet treatable eye conditions and diseases exist in our world in the twenty first century. From the figures above, a cataract operation can be from as low a cost as £28 and sometimes antibiotics can treat diseases like trachoma in it's early stages.
I can't imagine what life would be like without my eye sight. Especially being a creative person who loves art, photography and design. I can't imagine not seeing the colour and the world around me. I wouldn't be able to see my wife and kids or support my family in the way that I have done in the past.
Sightsavers only require a small monthly donation that is affordable by so many people in the UK. Even in these hard times a lot of us can continue to support them to make sure they continue their amazing work for less fortunate people.
By saving a persons eye sight it leaves them in a better position to be able to work and provide for their own families. There are always so many great results of preventative help like this.
How can you help?
Individuals and organisations can help Sightsavers in a number of ways. You can donate or help them fundraise. Your help makes a huge difference, imagine helping people to see or preventing them from going blind?
Both individuals and organisations can help Sightsavers to do more of their great work. You can also join the fight for disability rights on the official campaign page here: https://www.sightsavers.org/our-campaign/
We only get one life so if we have the chance to help others then that is a really great thing. Preventable eye conditions and diseases are often easy and inexpensive to treat and will make a world of difference to the person on the receiving end of the treatment. The work of Sightsavers literally changes peoples lives for the better and it's great to be part of that.
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