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lcif@lionsclubs.org

Program Celebrates Saving Sight in China

OAK BROOK, Illinois, USA, September 29, 2009 – SightFirst China Action celebrates 10 years of preventing and reversing blindness, having helped more than 4.5 million people. Through Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), the SightFirst China Action program celebrates its 10th anniversary as a nationwide program. The program built upon the successes of SightFirst pilot projects that began 16 years ago and has a successful history of saving sight for millions in China.

“SightFirst has been fundamental in helping prevent and reverse blindness in China,” said LCIF Chairperson, Al Brandel, “Through LCIF, local Lions and our partnership with the Chinese government, we have been able to save the sight of millions who would have otherwise gone blind.”

Prior to SFCA’s establishment in China, vision impairment was very widespread and the need for vision care services were vast. In 2002, there were an estimated 5 million blind people in China, with more than 40 percent of blindness resulting from cataract. In a country where the number of blind people is expected to increase four times by 2020, SightFirst is making a significant impact.

LCIF has invested more than US$30 million to build up eye care services and eradicate preventable blindness, and the Chinese government gave over US$250 million to this effort. Completed in 2002, Phase I supported 2.1 million cataract surgeries and established surgical eye units in 104 rural counties that previously had none. SFCA Phase II assisted even more people.

SFCA has grown to be one of SightFirst’s largest and most successful sight initiatives to date. The program was established when LCIF partnered with the China State Council Coordination Committee on Disability and two of its subsidiaries, the Ministry of Health and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation. The partnership forged a strong relationship between Lions Clubs International (LCI) and the Chinese government.

Lions have a long history of working with the Chinese government to provide humanitarian service, and the success of SightFirst China Action helped establish LCI in 2002 as the first and only international volunteer service club organization to be officially recognized by the Chinese government. Today, there are 2,674 Lions clubs members in 115 clubs in China in addition to 1,407 Lions in 64 clubs in Hong Kong and Macau. These Lions played a significant role in the development and success of SFCA.

“When Lions first started in China, there was an enormous need for vision care services due to the large number of blind” said Wing-Kun Tam, Second Vice President of Lions Clubs International, “Although there is still a great need, significant progress has been made due to the success and achievements of SFCA.”  

To mark the official 10-year anniversary of SFCA, a celebratory event will be held in Beijing to thank and recognize the many doctors and medical personnel who have volunteered their time to make the program such a success. A press conference and media promotion will further support the celebration throughout China. In addition, three teams comprised of Lions’ leadership, local Lions and World Health Organization (WHO) staff and LCIF staff, will visit three project areas in Tibet, Sichuan and GuangXi.

SightFirst remains committed to fighting preventable blindness in China through its SFCA program. LCIF, along with local Lions and their partners have made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of people.

SightFirst China Action (SFCA) Results:

  • Supported more than 4.5 million cataract surgeries
  • Equipped 210 hospitals in rural counties that previously had none
  • Eye care infrastructure strengthened by creating secondary eye care units at hospitals in underdeveloped counties, provinces and Tibet
  • Trained 55,000 opthalmologists, para-ophthalmics, community workers and hospital in the western and northern provinces to ensure sustainable eye care services
  • 558 medical teams traveled across the country to provide surgeries, establish hospitals and conduct trainings
  • Established 31 training centers
  • SFCA II made possible 298 provincial level medical team missions that carried out 294,211 cataract surgeries in 1,375 Chinese counties. This greatly surpassed the original goal for SFCA II of 100 teams. 

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with more than 1.35 million members in 45,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographical areas around the world. Since 1917, Lions clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired and made a strong commitment to community service and serving youth throughout the world.

Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times study as the #1 non-governmental organization with which to partner. Established in 1968, LCIF has been involved with blindness prevention and treatment for more than 15 years through the SightFirst program. Learn more at www.lionsclubs.org and www.lcif.org.

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