Tag Archives: Orbis

Giving every child a fair chance


Sponsor post: Lene Øverland, CEO of Orbis Africa, our 10GA Programme Partner, writes on why paediatric eye health is important to their work in Africa.

Lene Øverland, CEO Orbis Africa | Photo credit: Clare Louise Thomas

Lene Øverland, CEO Orbis Africa | Photo credit: Clare Louise Thomas

With 1.3m of the world’s 1.4m blind children living in Africa and Asia, and the worldwide prevalence of blindness being highest in Africa, the focus of Orbis’s work on the African continent centres around child eye health. Establishing and strengthening child-friendly eye centres, providing specialist training on the treatment of children’s delicate eyes, and ensuring that the appropriate equipment is available are all essential to eliminating child blindness and have been key to Orbis’s interventions to date.

I went to school in the eighties in Norway when the country was booming with oil money. Every school had a nurse on site and a full size football field. The nurse would weigh us, ensure we were fully vaccinated before clearing us to play and learn. Our eyesight was only tested at specific, and far from regular, intervals. Perhaps a lack of vision was not perceived to be a threat to a happy educated childhood? Or perhaps vision was perceived to be a treatable issue that the child would simply tell their parent or teacher about?

By age 12, I had shifted my seating as close to the blackboard as possible so that I could see the writing and had developed very sharp hearing. It was only at age 12, at the scheduled test, that I was referred to an ophthalmologist and received my first pair of bright red spectacles to correct my newly diagnosed near-sightedness. At last I could shift further back in the classroom.

But, when one of the wealthiest countries in the world didn’t pick up vision impairment, even with dedicated staff in every school, how can we expect schools with far less resources to do so? The answer to uncorrected refractive errors, potentially resulting in delayed learning, is certainly not to wait for the child to express that there is a problem as often they view the change in their vision as ‘normal’. More work is needed to create health-seeking behaviours that enable children and adults to address conditions affecting their quality of life.

Delegates who attend Course#26 will gain insight into the way in which Orbis utilises multi-disciplinary teams to design strategies which address the complex barriers to eye health within all levels of the health system. Orbis interventions are meticulously designed, based on sound theoretical principles and locally generated evidence, and integrated with rigorous monitoring and evaluation to promote continuous learning and maximise impact.

IAPB and the 10GA can play a significant role by presenting a strong case to decision makers on the importance of knowing how to practically plan and budget for eye health on a national and provincial level. The goal to prevent avoidable blindness can be achieved in Africa with significant investment empowering communities and giving them access to quality eye healthcare services. If children are left behind, communities will be prevented from flourishing and thriving. This investment could mean that no child, whether they live in Norway or Africa, will ever face a lifetime of preventable and treatable visual impairment or blindness.


Sign up for the 10GA Newsletter

10GA has its first Programme Partner: Orbis


IAPB’s 10th General Assembly, the premier global event discussing public health issues related to blindness and visual impairment, has its first Programme Partner – Orbis.

As Programme Partner, Orbis will be presenting a course on ‘Paediatric Eye Health’ as part of the 10GA Scientific Programme. With an estimated 1.4 million blind children–45% from avoidable causes– the pattern of causes of childhood blindness and visual impairment vary widely between and even within countries. Factors like the need for surgical intervention (for cataract), access to services, importance of wider health and social practices all have a key role to play in tackling paediatric eye health.

Orbis, dedicated to preserving and restoring sight, has been keenly interested in tackling the causes of childhood blindness around the world. Since its inception in 1982, Orbis has worked with institutions in the developing world to improve capacity and train new specialists in tackling the myriad causes of blindness, with a particular focus on children.

For the session on paediatric eye health, Orbis and IAPB will work together to bring specialist speakers and presenting the latest research on the topic to the participants.

“With nearly 300,000 children in need of eye care services in Africa, innovative solutions are critical to bring high-quality services to resource-poor settings” says Lene Øverland, Orbis Africa CEO. “Orbis has the expertise—honed in Africa and other developing countries—to tackle childhood blindness, in partnership with our partners and supporters in the eye care sector and beyond. Much of our work is the result of the trusted relationships we have built with national governments, health organisations, educational institutions, and the child health and child rights sectors. Together, we can work towards building lasting solutions”.

10GA’s theme is “Stronger Together”. In 2016, IAPB will be showcasing one of the eye health sector’s remarkable success stories – our longstanding cross-sectoral partnerships. “We are delighted to invite Orbis as our first Programme Partner”, said Joanna Conlon, Director of Development, IAPB. “Orbis showcases all that is good and best within the eye care sector—great quality of service and a keen interest in sharing good practices.”


Sign up for the 10GA Newsletter