The economic and social consequences of this are huge, with the estimated annual cost of lost productivity from avoidable blindness expected to rise from at least USD200 billion to at least USD300 billion by 2020, unless action is taken.5
With 90 per cent of avoidable blindness occurring in the developing world, this is an issue that resonates across the geographic span of our markets and goes to the heart of the health and economic vitality of populations.
Seeing is Believing (SiB) is Standard Chartered’s global initiative to tackle avoidable blindness. Since 2003, SiB has raised over USD32 million, half of which has been donated by Standard Chartered through its dollar-for-dollar matching initiative. In 2010, funds raised for SiB totalled USD3.24 million and since 2003, SiB projects have reached over 20 million people.
From its beginnings as a staff-driven fundraising initiative to celebrate Standard Chartered’s 150th anniversary, SiB has grown into one of the foremost collaborations between the private sector and international eye-care NGOs.
Today, SiB invests in comprehensive and sustainable eye-care projects, aimed at tackling avoidable blindness in areas of high need. Since 2003, the number of SiB projects has totalled 66 in 23 countries.
As of the end of 2010, total SiB outputs included full funding or partial funding for over 2.75 million cataract and other surgical operations and the setting up of distribution networks supplying medicine to prevent Vitamin A deficiency and river blindness for 3.37 million people. In addition, over 50,000 health workers, including community workers, nurses and ophthalmologists, have been trained, and will be able to serve their communities long into the future.
SiB is a collaboration between Standard Chartered, the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and leading eye care NGOs delivering projects on the ground. The aim of SiB is aligned with the wider global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness, ‘VISION2020: The Right to Sight’ is co-ordinated by IAPB and the World Health Organisation, which provides a framework for all action to tackle avoidable blindness.
At the local level, Standard Chartered builds strong partnerships with NGOs as well as individual hospitals, academic institutions and government health departments to support delivery of quality eye care and build public awareness of avoidable blindness in general.
In some cases, through SiB, Standard Chartered has been able to drive institutional changes at a local level. For example, 2010 saw the completion of a successful project with Sightsavers in Pakistan, involving the training of over 40,000 primary health care staff to diagnose eye-care problems and provide referrals or basic treatment. This training programme has now been fully integrated within the Ministry of Health’s training programme, ensuring that millions of Pakistanis will benefit from a sustainable primary eye-care service.
More generally within the eye-care world, Standard Chartered and IAPB have promoted a culture of rigorous reporting to better understand the impacts of the work carried out as part of SiB. In 2010, Standard Chartered agreed to co-sponsor an economic evaluation of the cost-utility of SiB’s investment into avoidable blindness in Zambia. The research will provide much needed data on the cost utility of avoidable blindness interventions as well as data on the economic implications of avoidable blindness. The project runs over two years and results will be reported in 2012.
By working in close partnership with NGOs, Standard Chartered aims to have a broader impact on the campaign to tackle avoidable blindness, encouraging further investment and commitment to eye care from governments as well as previously uninvolved donors.
Since 2007, Standard Chartered has worked in partnership with Irish Aid and Sightsavers to set up a project to train 20,000 Lady Health Workers (LHWs) in primary eye care in Pakistan.
A key objective of the project was to demonstrate the practicability and impact of integrating eye care into primary health care channels. Set up to address the incidence of preventable or treatable blindness in Pakistan, the aim was to treat 1.95 million people over three years and to renovate 20 basic health units.
The impact of the project has far exceeded expectations. In total, 40,000 LHWs were trained in eye care, directly benefiting over 7 million people through examination and treatment (see image). The LHWs were able to refer over 900,000 cases of potentially blinding conditions for further treatment in hospitals and ensured that cases were followed up.
As a result of the project, there has been a policy shift towards integrating eye care into the Government’s primary health care planning.
A new project has now been planned to integrate eye care into health screening at schools. This will ensure that children with potentially blinding ocular conditions, or severe visual impairment, are identified quickly and efficiently before this affects their educational chances. Through close collaboration with the government, the project will aim to develop a standard approach for school eye screening.