Free vision care for 23,000 children to support poverty relief in rural China
By: Vision for Life – Essilor Vision Foundation China
A solution as simple as a pair of glasses can immediately and positively impact the daily lives of individuals, their families, and communities. 450 million people in China still don’t have access to vision correction and its life changing consequences. This has an impact on their productivity, their safety and a child’s learning abilities – how can they follow their teacher if they can’t see the board clearly? With this in mind, Essilor Vision Foundation China launched a programme in Xing County, together with the local government and other partners, to bring good vision to 23,000 school children in order to contribute to poverty relief in one of the most underprivileged counties.
This week we announced the results of its free vision care programme at the Global Poverty Reduction Forum in Xing County, Shangxi Province. In the presence of 160 guests from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), the State Council of Poverty Relief Office and the municipal governments of Shangxi Province and Lvliang City, Essilor reaffirmed its commitment to improving lives by improving sight in China through its vision care programmes. Many national Ambassadors and representatives of international organizations also attended the forum to recognize efforts made to reduce poverty.
Xing County is one of the most underprivileged counties in Shanxi Province and many people lack access to any form of eye care. In March 2017, EVF China, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the local government of Xing County launched a programme to bring free eye care to school children. Within 14 months, 22,994 students in 41 schools received a free eye test and 6,492 of them were equipped with a pair of eyeglasses. Most of the children have never received an eye test before, the programme was the first of its kind in Xing County and the first ever public welfare project covering all students in a county in Shangxi Province.
Aicha Mokdahi, president of Essilor Vision Foundation, commented on the programme: “450 million people in China cannot see the world clearly because they live with uncorrected poor vision. This puts them at a disadvantage which is especially true of children. A simple pair of glasses has the power to change a person’s life and create positive ripple effects on the social and economic development of a community. By giving the children of Xing County access to vision correction, we are empowering them to achieve their full potential at school, but we are also hoping to give them access to a better future and ultimately to reduce inequalities and poverty in the country.”
Of the 22,994 students screened, 8,074 students, 35%, were found to have myopia, (nearsightedness) which means they struggle to see the classroom board. In high schools myopia can be found in up to 50% of children and teens. Many factors to contribute to these distressing figures including; lack of awareness for the importance of good vision, resistance to wearing glasses due to stigmatization, a lack of eye care infrastructure and limited financial means.
Despite its staggering reach, the impact of poor vision is largely unknown to its victims and those with the ability to change and enforce public policy for good eye health. Every year the global cost of lost productivity due to uncorrected poor vision is $272 billion; and the problem is only getting worse. Myopia alone is predicted to affect 5 billion people, over half the world’s population, by 2050 impacting their physical health and mental well-being.
As a founding partner of the global campaign Our Children’s Vision with the aim to bring vision care to 50 million children globally by 2020, we are working continuously to enforce and expand our free eye care programmes around the world and to make sure every child has access to this basic human right: good vision.