Top NI eye specialists’ call to support sight-saving treatments in poorer countries

Two leading NI eye health professionals are making an urgent appeal for funds to help save sight in the world’s poorest places.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 7:11 am
Andrew Spence with a patient in Zimbabwe

Jonathan Jackson, head of Optometry at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, and Andrew Spence, senior optometrist at Cathedral Eye Clinic, Belfast, witnessed first-hand the work of international blindness and disability charity CBM (Christian Blind Mission) in Zimbabwe.

Now the pair are appealing for support for CBM’s ‘Light up Lives’ appeal to improve access to sight-saving eye treatments for conditions like cataracts, and to correct refractive errors. Until May 20, every pound donated to the Light up Lives appeal will be doubled by the UK government.

Around 75 per cent of all blindness globally could be prevented or treated. But in poorer parts of the world, many people do not have access to sight-saving treatments that could prevent blindness or restore their vision – and in countries like Zimbabwe, the impact of Covid-19 on health systems has made the situation even worse.

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Jonathan Jackson, head of Optometry at the RVH

After their visit to Zimbabwe in 2017 Jonathan and Andrew both returned to CBM’s partner hospital as volunteers to provide training. They are also both members of CBM’s volunteer Northern Ireland Committee, who help raise awareness and funds for the charity’s work.

Jonathan said: “It’s heart-rending not being able to return to help with the sight saving projects that we had the privilege to be involved with, in Zimbabwe. Covid has hampered our travel, but worse still has had a dire effect on the efforts there for sight saving. We are committed to supporting the sight saving work there, and were very encouraged by how the training was helping. We’ve been wondering how we can help during this time and have decided to make a public appeal asking for urgent support for the Light Up Lives campaign.”

Andrew added: “The charity is hoping to raise enough to fund an ambitious three year project to reduce avoidable blindness in the country, training staff, equipping hospitals and enabling over 44,000 people with eye health problems to access treatment – ranging from a pair of glasses to sight-restoring surgery.

“We want to help as many as possible to have the chance of an education and to earn a living. By training and equipping health workers and delivering vital treatment in partnership with local hospitals CBM’s project will have a long-term impact, improving access to eye health services and restoring sight, hope and opportunity.”

To donate or find out more, visit www.lightuplives.net. Donations will help to train many more eye health professionals, equip hospitals and fund sight-saving treatments.