Hundreds, including people with vision impairment and blindness flocked the Justice recreational field, Town-ground, to celebrate World Eye Sight Day with the theme “Love your Eyes”, Thursday 13th October.
In his keynote address, MHMS Minister Hon. Dr. Culwick Togamana highlighted that World Sight day is an annual international day of awareness, aiming to raise awareness around eye health, and how we can all work together to prevent vision impairment and blindness.
Dr. Togamana said according to the WHO, nearly 1 billion people all over the world either have near or distance vision impairment that could be prevented. He explained vision impairment affects all ages, with the majority of cases in those over the age of 50 years.
“Vision impairment and blindness have major and long lasting effects of all aspects of life, including education, finance and the ability to do daily activities that one could do for a better living”, Dr Togamana said.
“The Theme Love your Eyes is a call to everyone to recognize the importance of loving your Eyes. The theme further elaborates on four key messages known as the 4Ps; they are, prevent, protect, preserve and prioritize, critical towards caring for our eyes.
Dr. Togamana said in the Solomon Islands, the ministry of health through the National EyeCare division has been very active in providing maximum EyeCare services throughout the country.
“With the support of the Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand, we have one of the best Eye Clinics in the region that is equipped with best-specialized equipment and highly qualified eye health professionals.
“The ministry through its development partners continue to support the training and development of EyeCare nurses and doctors. While basic infrastructure remains a challenge to most provinces, regular cataract surgical and diabetic retinopathy (DR) outreaches has been increased over the years to all provinces down to Area Health center levels. Our aim is to expand and extend high quality EyeCare services to everyone in need”, said Dr Togamana.
He informed that provinces that already have a dedicated Eye clinics includes; Munda and Gizo in the Western Province, Kilu’ufi in Malaita Province, Kirakira in Makira/Ulawa Province and Kukum clinic here in Honiara.
“The target for the next 10 years is to ensure other provinces will be supported with infrastructure development to provide adequate space for equal opportunity for EyeCare services that will increase coverage of cataract surgical operation and effective coverage of refractive error.
“The provision of adequate transport system to alleviate financial difficulties faced by most vulnerable population in remote areas of the country is among the key targets of the ministry to achieve in the next 10 years,” said Dr Togamana.
He assured everyone that the Ministry of Health through the national EyeCare division has made steady progress in providing improved and quality EyeCare service for the people of this country.
National Referral Hospital (NRH), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr George Malefoasi said the NRH is the key institution the government establishes to ensure the rights of people to eye care services is made available to meet the needs of our people.
He highlighted preventable avoidable blindness is estimated to be 0.5% and trachoma (a infection of the eye) attributes 18% of these blindness.
“These are common causes of visual impairment and blindness in the past decade in the country”, Dr Malefoasi said.
He reminded everyone it’s only these kinds of days that we advocate and make our people aware.
“Whilst the health care sector is taking the primary lead, all sectors such as the schools and communities must also join in on the fight against blindness”, Dr Malefoasi said.
Meanwhile, Medical Director Pacific Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand (FHFNZ) Dr John Szetu said FHFNZ currently has strong partnership with the MHMS over the past 20years. “ Through this partnership there has been excellent progress in strengthening the Solomon Islands’ National eye care program”,
“Together, we establish the REC at the NRH and since 2006 have trained up 39 eye nurses and 4 doctors at our facility at PEI, in collaboration with FNU, to name just a few achievements. An integral component of our work is to support the advancement of integrated people-centered eye care services that are essential for the achievement of universal health coverage and the region’s aspirations of social inclusion so that all Pacific people, including Solomon Islanders can lead free, healthy, and productive lives”, Dr. Szetu said.