Sightsavers are an international charity which works with partners to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people in the developing world.
Sightsavers believes that no one should be blind from avoidable causes, and that people’s whose sight can’t be saved should live with dignity and independence.
Did you know?
- There are 39 million blind people in the world
- 80% of blindness is avoidable
- Nearly 90% of visually impaired people live in the world’s poorest countries
- Less than 10% of disabled children (including those who are blind) get the chance to go to primary school in Africa
So the problems we are trying to tackle are pretty enormous. All of our work can be divided into the areas of health, social inclusion, education and community development. We tackle the main causes of avoidable blindness including cataract, and a group of diseases that have been coined ‘neglected tropical diseases’ such as river blindness and trachoma.
An important way of reaching those in need is by addressing the desperate shortage of eye care workers in the countries where we work. For example it is estimated that the world is short of over four million health professionals, and unsurprisingly the shortfall is in the poorest and most under developed countries.
When field workers in our projects identify people who are blind, many have been excluded by their families and communities, treated as a burden as they are unable to look after themselves. But after being taught essential living skills by rehabilitation workers, it’s possible to rebuild their confidence and go on to lead independent, happy and fulfilled lives. This often includes teaching them a valuable trade such as farming, fishing or sewing, in order to earn a living. Some of our projects also have microfinance partners. This means people who have been taught a new skill can borrow money to start their own businesses.
There are other aspects to our social inclusion work than training and counselling for people who are blind. Many governments have inadequate policies to address disability issues, so we work with organisations run by blind and disabled people to help them understand and fight for their rights. For example our partner in Sierra Leone successfully campaigned for the introduction of Braille voting slips, enabling visually impaired people to vote for the first time. And our partner in India pushed for banking to be more accessible for people who are blind.