NEOS President’s Annual Ophthalmic Charity of the Year 2017 / 18
Nominated charity: CBM
As President of NEOS for 2017/2018, it is an honour to represent NEOS and to be given the opportunity to introduce my chosen eye related charity of the year.
NEOS does a wonderful job of supporting members with three annual meetings focused on introducing innovative ideas, teaching new skills and updating us on topics we may not have covered for a while, as well as encouraging young ophthalmologists with our poster, video and paper competitions. But we can become a little self-reflective, only looking to our own interests. So the idea of having a President’s Charity is to encourage members who may not have known of or considered supporting a sight related charity to become more outward looking to the needs of those less fortunate.
In our privileged roles as ophthalmologists, we understand the importance of good vision, both in performing our own work but also for our patients to enable them to earn a living, access education and enjoy retirement in later years.
However, in many parts of the world there may be little or no access to adequate ophthalmic facilities and no screening, rehabilitation services or support for those with poor or no sight. Accessing services is even more difficult for those with disabilities and sight impairment.
That is why I have chosen ”CBM” as my charity of the year as it aims to transform the lives of people with visual impairment and other disabilities and their communities in the world’s poorest places.
CBM works in nearly 60 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and in 2016 reached over 30 million people. This included treating 18.7 million people for blinding & disabling diseases and performing 433,894 sight-restoring cataract surgeries, as well as providing glasses and low vision devices, or supporting people who are permanently blind or living with other disabilities to go to school, earn a living and be respected in their communities.
From its foundation, CBM has been driven to reach those whom others leave behind. Over 100 years ago CBM founder, Pastor Ernst Christoffel, was moved to help blind street children, in Turkey and later Iran, whom others barely noticed. Ever since, CBM has been supporting those at risk of blindness and other disabilities, recognising that they are often the poorest and most excluded in their communities.
CBM stands for Christian Blind Mission, although it now supports people with all types of disability, not just blindness, so it now uses the acronym “CBM”. Although Christian values are at the heart of all CBM does, the charity helps people of all faiths and none.
I would like to tell you about a specific CBM programme that I support and one which I have had the privilege to see in action first-hand.
CBM, works across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, helping to improve access for children and their families to quality ophthalmic services that prevent or treat visual impairment. This East African programme is reaching an estimated 1 million children under the age of 15.
In Tanzania, where the average wage is £680 a year, compared to £33,500 in the UK, the cost of a £130 cataract extraction is clearly beyond the hope of many families. CBM pays not only for cataract surgery under general anaesthesia at one of the country’s few paediatric eye units but also for the travel of both the child and parent as well as follow up review and spectacle rehabilitation.
At our autumn NEOS meeting we showed a short video of an older girl called Whitney having such cataract surgery as part of this programme in Uganda.
You can see it again HERE or here: https://www.cbmuk.org.uk/stories-of-our-work/whitney/