Making eye health services available to all – awards and sharing expertise at IAPB General Assembly

Posted on: Thursday, 3rd November, 2016

Last week, the 10th General Assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in Durban, South Africa brought together global experts in eye health, eye health institutions, NGOs, networks and government representatives to discuss public health issues related to blindness and visual impairment.

CBM was a key sponsor of the Assembly, the biggest event in the 2016 eye health calendar. The Assembly aims to promote strong partnerships and co-ordinated action to tackle avoidable blindness, with the theme “Stronger Together”.

Inclusive eye health award

CBM Australia’s David Lewis was presented the IAPB Regional Achievement Award for the Western Pacific region during cvyqhlhxgaa_xmcthe Assembly. The award recognises his pioneering contribution to making eye-health services available to all in the world’s poorest places.

David saw first-hand the poverty and hardship faced by people with disabilities while working for many years with CBM in West Africa. Returning to his native Australia, he has played a key role in leading CBM’s journey to make eye health truly inclusive – making eye care services accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and ensuring that people whose sight cannot be restored have the right to access wider opportunities and empowerment.

Sharing expertise

David Lewis was one of several CBM experts who shared their knowledge and experience  at the Assembly. As well as running courses on ‘Inclusion made easy in Eye Health programmes' and ‘Eye care needs during emergencies’, CBM specialists presented on glaucoma and onchocerciasis (River Blindness).

New partnership launched with World Health Organisation to tackle disabling diseases

During the Assembly, CBM signed a  Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) to pledge support for AFRO’s “Expanded Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases”.  This new agreement will enable support to be targeted to an area in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where NTD programmes have been put on hold and where progress in disease elimination would otherwise be at risk. Read more about the Memorandum of Understanding.

 “Eye health hero” CBM partner in Swaziland

Ophthalmologist Dr Jonathan Jasper Pons from CBM partner Good Shepherds Hospital in Swaziland, was honoured as an jasperponsEye Health Hero during the Assembly. The Eye Health Hero programme, an initiative IAPB in partnership with the L’OCCITANE Foundation, celebrates eye care practitioners and frontline staff who make a real difference towards world eye health care.

Dr Pons has been working at rural Good Shepherd Hospital, a CBM partner and Roman Catholic mission hospital, since 1999. He is one of only two eye surgeons working across Swaziland. 

Speaking about his work, Dr Pons said, "Can you imagine what a dream job it is to be the doctor, as well as the surgeon, basking in the joy of patients’ new sight, nearly every day? To be a member of a team that is sharpening its skills each day, helping design and then implement a blindness strategy for an entire country, all the while training others to do the same? I can’t think of a more satisfying occupation.”

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