|Prevention of Childhood Blindness (WHO, 1992, 48 pages)|
International and national nongovernmental organizations can play a leading role in securing greater political support and more resources for the prevention of childhood blindness. Being flexible in their approach, they are often in a position to initiate action and provide initial inputs into activities to prevent blindness in children. They can also facilitate the involvement of the local community in control activities.
As well as ministries of health, several other sectors and agencies, directly or indirectly concerned with eye health, play a critical role in controlling factors that pose a threat to children's sight. These include, among others, ministries of agriculture, education, the environment, and information and broadcasting. Active collaboration between these sectors would provide the necessary multidisciplinary base for interventions against causes of blindness in children.
Today's greater awareness of blindness on a global scale owes much to the work of WHO and nongovernmental organizations. While WHO has provided the major thrust in this field, encouraging governments of both developed and developing countries to adopt appropriate policies, the nongovernmental organizations have complemented these efforts at a national level and have extended blindness prevention services to less well served areas.
A great number of organizations throughout the world are concerned with blindness control activities. These include organizations with an international focus on funding or technical assistance for blindness prevention activities, publication of educational materials, or extensive public outreach and political advocacy.
Among the areas of action of nongovernmental organizations, the following can be highlighted:
- Human resources training and health education continue to be major areas of interest and commitment. While staff training initially took place on an informal basis, in several countries such training has become institutionalized and NGOs have assisted national programmes in meeting their staffing requirements.
Several of these training programmes, as well as being innovative in approach and content, have afforded the opportunity for collaboration between nongovernmental organizations themselves and between the organizations and WHO. The production of training materials is another example of such collaboration.
In the area of health education, the expertise and experience of nongovernmental organizations have been of immense value in the production of health education materials both for the public and for policy-makers. Nongovernmental organizations have also been involved in or supported research and evaluation in the area of eye health education.
- Adaptation of technological developments to make them appropriate for developing countries in terms of cost and maintenance has been another important contribution by nongovernmental organizations. Examples of this are local production of eye medication and low-cost spectacles and ophthalmic instrumentation. Initial experience has been shared with a number of countries, often through expertise provided by nongovernmental organizations.
- In connection with the delivery of eye care, nongovernmental organizations have actively supported outreach activities such as mobile units, "eye camps" and peripheral hospitals to provide essential eye care to underserved populations. A number of international nongovernmental organizations have shown a renewed interest in addressing the problem of avoidable blindness in children, in addition to their existing commitment to and support for special education and rehabilitation of blind children. Such an interest could facilitate the inclusion of activities for the prevention of childhood blindness in national blindness prevention programmes as an integral part of primary health care.
- The advocacy role played by international nongovernmental organizations, both individually and collectively through their membership of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), has led to useful interaction with ministries of health in a number of countries, in both initiating and developing national programmes. Through participation in national committees or councils, nongovernmental organizations have been able to help governments to develop appropriate strategies and have provided resources to support eye care activities within national programmes.
- Resource mobilization by nongovernmental organizations has been a key factor in providing financial support to national programmes directly or through WHO in furthering blindness prevention activities.