Crawley MP Henry Smith has hosted Manor Royal-based charity Vision Aid Overseas in the House of Commons (Tuesday, 20th March) in support of their work to fulfil a mission; to ‘enable people living in poverty to access affordable glasses and eye care.’
High Commissioners, parliamentarians, donors and a range of international development charities came together in Westminster to call for improved access to affordable eye care in developing countries, including eye exams and appropriate treatment such as spectacles, particularly for poorer communities and children.
“While I often welcome charities to Parliament it’s additionally special to welcome one based in Crawley, which works to help people suffering from vision impairments across the world.
“People’s old glasses from around the UK arrive at Vision Aid Overseas’ warehouse in Manor Royal to be recycled with the funds generated going to help those with eye health need in developing countries.
“About 10 per cent of the global population has an eye impairment which could be easily corrected with glasses but their need often goes unmet. Vision Aid Overseas delivers eye care services and low-cost new glasses to those in need. This particularly helps children in Africa who can’t see to learn and get an education because quite simply they’re unable to see the classroom blackboard until they get an eye test and spectacles. Also supported are adults so they can work in the local economy and support their families as well as contribute to their communities.
“Vision Aid Overseas recycle around 3.5 million pairs of second-hand glasses every year – we can be proud of the international impact of this Crawley-based charity.”
Over one billion people worldwide cannot see properly because they have near vision impairment, but do not have access to affordable reading glasses. Up to twice this number suffer from sight conditions treatable with spectacles. An estimated US$200 billion worth of productivity is lost every year as a result.
Following the inclusion of the need to tackle vision impairment at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day on 12th March 2018, and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s launch of the Vision Catalyst Fund to raise $1 billion to bring eye care to all in Commonwealth countries, attendees heard from speakers about the impact of Vision Aid Overseas’ work.
Chipo Mweemba, a Zambian optometrist, spoke of the need to train more eye care workers in the developing world. As a result of Vision Aid Overseas’ work in Zambia, from 2013 to date Chainama College of Health Sciences has seen 52 optometrists graduate with diplomas in the field; a stark contrast from five years ago when there were only two Zambian optometrists practicing in the whole of that country.