Allie Stryker 2013-01-07 23:04:53
Lions Ramp Up Blindness Fight Count to 60–that’s how much time a child somewhere in the world has left before going blind. A child goes blind nearly every minute, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). What’s even sadder is that about 40 percent of childhood blindness can be prevented or treated. Adults are increasingly at risk of blindness because of diabetes, which is on the rise. WHO estimates that diabetic retinopathy accounts for nearly 5 percent of the world’s 37 million blind. WHO also estimates that 6 million people worldwide are blind due to trachoma, an infection of the eyes that can result in blindness after repeated exposure. More than 150 million people are in need of treatment for trachoma. Lions are not sitting by idly, of course. Lions Clubs International signed a cooperative agreement with WHO in 2011 to aid global efforts to fight preventable blindness and focus on emerging threats to vision health. This includes renewed efforts against childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma. “Lions Clubs International has been supporting WHO for more than 20 years in the fight against avoidable blindness, and we have accomplished a great deal to help reduce the rate of blindness,” Wing-Kun Tam, 2011-12 president of Lions Clubs International, said during the announcement ceremony. “However, the pattern of blindness is changing in the world due to aging populations, the alarming rise of diabetes and diabetic eye disease, and also from increases in visual impairment affecting children for a variety of reasons. We are honored to increase our financial support of the World Health Organization to help the world tackle these challenges.” By focusing on major causes of blindness and working with partners like WHO, the SightFirst program of the Lions Clubs International Foundation has played a key role in helping to reduce global blindness since the program’s inception in 1990. In an effort to save children’s sight, LCIF has partnered with WHO since 2001 on the Project for the Elimination of Avoidable Childhood Blindness. Together, LCIF and WHO have delivered eye care services for 121 million children through child-friendly Lions eye care centers worldwide. As part of this recent agreement, LCIF is investing an additional $3 million to help develop 26 new child-friendly eye care centers in developing countries. LCIF is also working with WHO to prevent and control diabetic eye disease. Through the new agreement, LCIF is giving $400,000 to support the training of health care workers in developing countries to better detect and treat diabetic eye disease. LCIF is also increasing Lions vision screening programs to raise awareness of the condition. Finally, as part of the partnership agreement, LCIF is working to eliminate blinding trachoma in China as a public health problem. LCIF gave two SightFirst grants totaling $3.35 million to support a survey and assessment effort in provinces where trachoma is known to be an issue. The results will help develop a plan to eliminate trachoma in China by 2016. By working with partners like WHO, Lions are showing what can be done in saving sight. Learn more about LCIF’s SightFirst program and Lions’ efforts to improve or restore vision at www.lcif.org.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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