International development organisation The Fred Hollows Foundation is celebrating its fifth anniversary in the Philippines by announcing it is expanding its sight-saving work to four new provinces this year.
The Foundation’s Philippines Country Manager Mardi Mapa-Suplido said projects to end avoidable blindness are being launched in Antique, Negros Oriental, Oriental Mindoro and Quezon provinces.
Ms Mapa-Suplido said The Foundation was making a difference in Surigao del Norte and Tarlac provinces, providing screening and eye treatments for patients and training nurses and community health workers.
“Over the past five years, we have worked in partnership with local health partners to end avoidable blindness and to build sustainable eye health systems.
“Globally, four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be. With the right treatment, people can see again.”
Since 2014, The Foundation has screened more than 400,000 people and provided more than 79,900 eye treatments.
Ms Mapa-Suplido said one of the great strengths of The Fred Hollows Foundation was its commitment to build the capacity of local health workers and teachers so they can take the lead in improving eye health in their communities.
The Foundation has trained more than 4,100 health workers and teachers while 52,525 community members were educated about eye health.
“Training the teachers and building a skilled local eye health work force was a priority for our founder Fred Hollows, an eye surgeon and humanitarian remembered for championing the right of all people to high-quality and affordable eye care and good health.”
In order to achieve these results, The Foundation has worked closely with partners from the government, private sector, and other NGOs in the eye health space.
“The Fred Hollows Foundation has provided unwavering support since the start, from policymaking and development, to capacity building and service delivery,” Dr Rosario Uy, Head of the Prevention of Blindness Program of the Department of Health said.
This International Women’s Month, The Foundation is celebrating the contribution of women in the eye health sector. Five Women Who Help Us See is a collection of five women who are working hard to improve the country’s eye health system.
Case study: Making waves in The Philippines
The Foundation has made waves on the surfing island of Siargao, southern Philippines.
Local residents – from fisher-folk to surfers – had their eyes checked at four eye screenings that were held throughout the island earlier this year.
One of those eager to have her eyes checked was 84-year-old Constancia. Life hasn’t always been kind to Constancia; she has been widowed three times and now lives alone in a small wooden house. She receives support from a local co-operative and makes ends meet by cleaning houses and occasionally some of the island’s resorts.
But Constancia has cataract in her right eye, limiting her ability to work and care for herself. She is looking forward to taking more cleaning jobs once she can see again.
Although she can’t remember exactly when her vision started deteriorating, Constancia does remember crossing to the mainland 20 years ago, to have her left eye operated on.
But despite that successful operation, Constancia still practices local medicinal beliefs, extracting the sap of a special weed known locally as tawa-tawa. She drops the sap to her right eye, believing it will melt away the cataract.
Unfortunately, the herbal medication has done nothing to improve her condition and she is hopeful that The Foundation will help give her the sight-saving operation she needs.
Two of Constancia’s daughters are still alive but live far away. She visits them once in a while along with her 10 grandchildren and is very much looking forward to seeing them all again clearly.
Initiatives like these allow eye problems like Constancia’s to be detected early on at the community level and then be referred to the district and provincial hospitals for immediate treatment.
“A lot of people have been helped by The Foundation,” said Shalom Dapar-Sumaguila from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, one of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s field partners in The Philippines.
“We see heads of families who can now see and return to their jobs and earn again, and children who stopped schooling who can now study again. It’s really an accomplishment. It cannot be done by [our] Department alone, so we really need to converge with other organisations, like The Fred Hollows Foundation.”
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