In celebration of Combat Blindness International’s 35th anniversary, we’re looking back at CBI’s impact in alleviating avoidable blindness. Since 1984, Combat Blindness International has worked to eliminate preventable blindness worldwide by providing sustainable, equitable solutions for sight through partnership and innovation. In this blog, we share with you how CBI’s work aligns with the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Nations developed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in order to map out a path to a better and more sustainable future for all. In the coming months, you may see us use hashtags like #SDG1 or #SDG5 in our social media posts to tie our work to the specific sustainable development goal that it helps support.
1. No Poverty (#1) and Decent Work and Economic Growth (#8)
Blindness and visual impairment inhibit a person’s ability to work. This negatively impacts both the blind person and their household. For every $1 invested in ending preventable blindness, it restores $4 to the global economy.1 Supporting blindness elimination supports local, national, and global economies. It is now known that those who regain their vision make 1500% the cost of their cataract surgery in their first year returning to the workforce.2 When a person’s sight is restored, they can return to work and those family members who were taking care of them can also return to work or school. You change the life of an entire family when you invest in someone’s sight. You change an entire country through the economic gain from this action.
We recently shared a post about Ramavtar through our social media channels. His vision impairment was negatively affecting his work as a barber and causing him to lose income. His sons needed to run his business for him, and he was losing out on customers by being out from work. With his sight restored, he has returned to work and his youngest son can return to school. His customers are happy to have him back in his barbershop. Through Ramavtar’s story, we see the positive impact restoring sight has on a person’s income.
2. Good Health and Well Being (#3)
Eye health and health, in general, are inextricably linked. The eye exams CBI supports help to identify many health problems along with ensuring healthy vision for all. Blindness can, unfortunately, be a deadly disease though it’s not always recognized as such. The life expectancy of a blind person is one third less than that of their sighted peers, and most blind individuals in developing countries die within 10 years of becoming blind.3 This statistic is even direr for children with half of the children dying within 1 to 2 years of becoming blind.4 People’s lives are enriched (and saved) when they have their sight.
Divyesh Dineshbai Vasava used to sit in one corner of his house, rarely moving or interacting with his parents. Divyesh was brought to an eye camp when he was 3 years old and was diagnosed with congenital cataract in both eyes. He received his surgery and now moves around without support and plays with other children. The Vasava family says that their son has been given a second life thanks to the support of CBI.
3.Quality Education (#4) and Gender Equality (#5)
Through the Certified Ophthalmic Paramedic program, Combat Blindness International supports the education of women from rural India to help them become financially independent. Their work helps to address the need for a trained eye care workforce in regions all over India. The COP students are women who come from areas of India where women only make up 26%5 of the workforce and have a literacy rate of 59%.6 The COP program allows women to learn communication and life skills, and the program gives them a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth, as well as financial independence. CBI helps ensure the opportunity of education to those in low-income countries by supporting eye screenings and women’s education. Since 2014, we’ve given over 400 women the opportunity to train into COP roles.
Of the 36 million blind in the world, two-thirds are women.7 This is believed to be, in part, because women are more likely to seek medical care for their children or other family members than themselves. When women play a key role in the healthcare of their families and communities, the overall health of the community as a whole improves. When women are a key part of the plan to administer healthcare to the masses, you are better able to focus on parts of the community that might have been overlooked.
4. Reduced Inequalities (#10)
For decades, the cataract surgeries provided in low-income countries were not of the same level as the ones administered in high-income countries. The former surgeries used to involve the complete removal of the lens from the eye and introduction of glasses for those who had received cataract surgery. The glasses were essential to properly refract light to the cornea, and if they were broken or lost, the person who had received a cataract surgery was rendered blind again.
In the early ’90s, Combat Blindness International provided seed funding for Aurolab, an intraocular lens, and suture factory based in Madurai, India at Aravind Eye Hospital. The factory produces IOLs at-cost for nonprofits performing cataract surgeries in 120 countries and sells lenses for a profit to those buying from high-income countries. This model allows those in low-income countries the opportunity to receive the same quality surgeries as those in high-income countries.
Combat Blindness International’s programs work to reach vulnerable populations wherever they are. Women are given a chance at greater economic mobility. The blind have their sight restored and are given a chance to work and learn again. Hospitals are built in communities that need them most.
Combat Blindness International is a partner in a global coalition to end avoidable blindness. Because of our work and that of our partners, the rate of global blindness has actually decreased in recent years. Investment in eye care is absolutely an investment in the Sustainable Development Goals. Combat Blindness International is proud to improve the world, one person at a time. Ensuring eyecare is available to everyone, everywhere.
- Fred Hollows Foundation. “Research”. 2015.
- Harminder, S.D., Dalia, G.S., and Otri, A.M. “Are we doing too many cataract operations? Cataract surgery: A global perspective.” British Journal of Ophthalmology. 93 (2009): 1-2.
- Jamison, D.T., et. al. “Impact of cataract surgery on individuals in India.” Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. (New York, Oxford University Press for the World Bank: 1993).
- Lion’s Club International. “Childhood Blindness” 2019.
- Cyrill, Melissa. India Briefing. July 17, 2018. “Why Businesses in India Should Hire More Women.”
- Government of India: Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation. 2019.
- Solar O, Irwin AS. Social determinants of health discussion paper 2 (Policy and Practice) Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010. A conceptual framework for action on the social determinants of health.