Essilor International Aims To Make Bhutan The First Country In The World To Eradicate Poor Vision
Cataract and refractive error are some of the leading causes of visual impairment in Bhutan.
By Dechen Tshomo | Kuensel
With the signing of the letter of intent (LoI) in Thimphu on 7 December, the Health Ministry has partnered with Essilor International, the world’s leading ophthalmic optics company, to eradicate poor vision in Bhutan.
Director General of the Department of Medical Services, Dr Pandup Tshering said that the signing of the LoI gave an opportunity for the ministry to work closely together to strengthen eye care services in the country.
Cataract and refractive error are some of the leading causes of visual impairment in Bhutan. Essilor will donate 400,000 pairs of eyeglasses to the ministry, which will then distribute them to the Bhutanese over the course of the partnership.
Essilor International’s Chief Mission Officer, Jayanth Bhuvaraghan said that uncorrected poor vision affects one in three people, making it the world’s largest unaddressed disability.
“This donation will be sufficient to provide first-time eyewear to all Bhutanese suffering from uncorrected refractive errors, estimated to be about 25 percent of the population, and those living at very high altitudes exposed to high levels of UVA/UVB and in need of protection,” he said.
Essilor’s plans to strengthen eye care services in Bhutan
Essilor would also focus on creating sustainable systems to ensure its continued impact. Together with the ministry, it will work on developing a nationwide awareness campaign to sensitise people about the need for vision correction and protection as well as the life-changing benefits it can have.
It would also help in strengthening the capacity of health professionals on vision care through the help of Essilor’s globally successful training programmes and tools.
Jayanth Bhuvaraghan said that the eyewear company would create micro-vision entrepreneurs for optical dispensing, support in developing the National Eye Health Strategic Plan (2018 – 2024), and also train monks to provide screenings and to form a relevant network.
Essilor International also signed a LoI with the Central Monastic Body for collaboration in eye care. Health officials said that the partnership was possible due to the guidance of Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck.
Essilor hopes to make Bhutan the first nation to eradicate poor vision
“Essilor’s partnership will help Bhutan to be the first nation in the world to eradicate poor vision,” he said.
Source: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Essilor, Hubert Sagnieres said that poor vision affected every aspect of a person’s life, impacting their ability to learn, work, live independently and to realise their full potential.
“We are proud to be collaborating with the Bhutanese government to develop a strategy and actions which will see poor vision eradicated from the country,” Hubert Sagnieres said.
“This will bring further prosperity and happiness to its people and for Essilor, one important step closer to its ambition of eradicating poor vision worldwide within one generation.”
Dr Pandup Tshering said that eye care service in the country is fully integrated within the General Health System. The service is delivered through a three-tiered system – primary, secondary and tertiary.
The Primary Eye Care Programme, under the Department of Medical Service, is responsible for the planning, coordination and monitoring of eye care activities in Bhutan.
Although primary eye care services in the country have been provided since 1987, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo revealed that Bhutan faced some challenges such as the affordability of eyeglasses, especially for the socially and economically disadvantaged population.
“So, we are extremely happy that this initiative had taken place.”
This article first appeared in kuensel and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.