15 million people in Pakistan are in need of refractive and optical services

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The data shows that about 15 million people in Pakistan are in need of refractive and optical services. However, inequality, access, affordability and availability of services make it extremely difficult for most people, especially in rural area, to get their refractive errors corrected. A focused contribution from private and public sectors is required to cater this need. In this regard, an initiative called Improving National Systems in Pakistan for Integrated Action on Refractive Error (INSPIRE) has been launched by Sightsavers in collaboration with National Programme for Prevention and Control of Blindness and its provincial chapter, i.e., College of Ophthalmology and Allied and Vision Sciences (COAVS) Mayo Hospital Lahore.
According to the details, districts Sheikhupura and Multan from Punjab province are the target areas of the said project. “The five-year INSPIRE project will reach over a million people with eye health screening services at primary health care level while providing around 200,000 people with refractive and optical services,” disclosed Munazza Gillani, Country Director, Sightsavers, while sharing details of the initiative.

She further said that the Sightsavers, in collaboration with the COAVS, Lahore, has initiated the INSPIRE project to assist the development of a comprehensive approach to strengthening refractive and optical services in Pakistan. The project will also make a significant contribution to the effective scaling up of screening, refractive services and eyeglasses provision and will promote the integration of these approaches into government-led national programs.
Sightsavers in collaboration of COAVS will initiate an accredited opticianry course in Punjab province for the first time in the history of Pakistan to produce a qualified workforce of qualified and certified opticians to address the issue of unavailability of quality spectacles. As part of the implementation strategy, a stakeholder’s consultation was held in Lahore which was attended by representatives of Punjab health department, Program Implementation Unit of LHWs program, National coordinator of NCEH, DG COAVS, and representatives of Sightsavers. On the occasion, Munazza Gillani gave in overview of the initiative the implementation strategy.

On this occasion, Prof. Dr. Asad Aslam Khan (National Coordinator of the National Blindness Control Programme) said that “Sightsavers and National Blindness Control Programme have collaborated closely since 2004, and in Punjab, COAVS has led the way to build a strong track record of innovation and commitment to achieving the objectives of global commitments such as Vision2020”. He said that this could have not been possible without public private partnership. He further added that unless we provide eye care services at primary level, we cannot ensure the provision of services to masses.” He appreciated the role of Sightsavers in eye health sector in Pakistan.
Ms. Sumrana Yasmin (Global Technical Lead at Sightsavers) said that “INSPIRE project will be addressing one of the most pressing challenges of unavailability of quality opticianry services. The project is well aligned with refractive error/school eye health strategies of Sightsavers and other international eye health frameworks and commitments”.

Prof. Dr. Zahid Kamal Siddiqui, Principal and Director General COAVS, congratulated Sightsavers for consulting the most relevant stakeholders of the project to address the on-ground challenges and opportunities regarding URE. Sightsavers has been working in all four provinces, including Gilgit Baltistan and AJK in collaboration with Ministries of Health and Education. It has so far successfully trained more than 100,000 people in the eye health workforce, including teachers.


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