Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 11, 2018: Today we announce the momentous occasion of celebrating 10 years of working with our dedicated partners in Sri Lanka from 2008-2018. Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation (formerly the International Centre for Eyecare Education) began work in Sri Lanka as a response to the humanitarian crisis created by the 2004 tsunami, which took the lives of 35,000 people.
Initial interventions were to provide emergency eye care and simply replace people’s glasses that had been lost. Initial assumptions of the eye care situation in Sri Lanka couldn’t have been further from the reality. The overwhelming majority of people in tsunami affected areas hadn’t lost their glasses – they’d never owned any.
We established a country office and programs in 2008 to help fill eye care provision gaps in the existing health care system. We have worked collaboratively over the last decade to increase access to eye health services focusing on the aim of eliminating uncorrected vision impairment and avoidable blindness.
Our programs in partnership with the Sri Lankan Government Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine and the Vision2020 Secretariat have been educating local eye care practitioners and building service infrastructure. Creating viable partnerships and championing the eye care profession to ensure that people across the country have access to eye care they desperately need.
During the last 10 years Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation programs in Sri Lanka have provided:
• Eye health services to over 99,000 people
• Dispensed over 54,000 pairs of spectacles
• Referred more than 18,000 individuals for secondary or tertiary eye care services
• Conducted awareness programs that have reached over two million community members
• Over 600 personnel have been trained in primary eye care, vision screening, and low vision management
Amanda Davis, CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation is in Sri Lanka for the celebrations. “I am delighted to be here and support the great outcomes achieved by our team and dedicated partners. Our programs over the last decade helped enable significant impact within the communities here and its very encouraging to see such commitment to gender equity and sustainability,” she said.
In 2009, the Institute opened three vision centres located in the Kegalle District, at Warakapola, Yatiyanthota and Deraniyagala. In partnership with the Lions Golden Jubilee Hospital, in 2011 the Institute also established a vision centre in the Gampaha District which is now owned and operated by Lions.
The Colombo Urban Comprehensive Eyecare Project 2009-2014, a Standard Chartered Bank Seeing is Believing initiative, was launched in selected urban slum areas of Colombo, Kolonnawa and Dehiwela. An optical workshop was also established at the National Eye Hospital which provides free spectacles to poor and deserving beneficiaries, most of whom would not have the funds to purchase a pair of spectacles.
A key achievement of the program is ensuring gender equity in all aspect of program development, including empowering women for health by creating supportive services, structures, and incentives. The average ratio of women and young girls accessing eye care services at our vision centres is 56%. Gender equity has been achieved by:
• Integrating gender responsive strategies
• Training women to be their own agents of change
• Creating an enabling and supportive environment
• Engaging the local community to build ownership for sustainability
Our Children’s Vision campaign is running in partnership with the World Vision, Muslim Hands and other community based child health focused organisations.
“We first visited Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004. The emergency eye care team came to Sri Lanka believing that those affected had lost everything, including their glasses. Sadly, we realised that about 90% of the people we met had never had an eye examination or a pair of glasses.”
“We knew we had a job ahead of us, to work with local people to ensure the people of this beautiful country have access to affordable eye care. Since that time, we have been addressing the gap in access to eye care, and by assisting the Government and collaborating with local district partners and other NGO’s – I believe we are well on the way in Sri Lanka.” The Late Professor Brien Holden, Former CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute said before his passing in 2015.