Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the world. Desiring to change the reality for those affected, Lions in Madagascar started a SightFirst project to address this issue more than 20 years ago. Since then, these Lions have gone on to do so much more.
“When we see the smiles of the people we help, it goes straight to your heart,” says Lion Anja Ramilison of Antananarivo Lions Club. “No riches in the world can buy the feeling of happiness that comes from helping others.”
Lions SightFirst Madagascar (LSFM), a program supported by Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), recently marked its 20th anniversary restoring sight and expanding comprehensive eye care services across Madagascar.
No riches in the world can buy the feeling of happiness that comes from helping others.
Approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide live with some form of vision impairment, according to the World Health Organization, be it a refractive error, cataracts or another eye condition. However, close to 80 percent of all vision impairment is avoidable. Many times, a pair of glasses is all one needs to see clearly. Despite this, millions are seeing life through blurry eyes.
In Madagascar, almost 80 percent of the population lives on less than US$1.90 per day and can’t afford eye exams or glasses. So, in addition to a major cataract problem, there are many people living with uncorrected refractive errors. Parents who lost their vision are no longer able to care for their families. They are unable to work, so they can’t earn a living. In addition to a problematic economic situation, blindness and visual impairments lead to other health issues and shortened life expectancy.
Recognizing an enormous problem, Lions of Madagascar opened the SightFirst Madagascar Eye Center, which is open every day of the week to provide eye care to those who need it. The eye center is committed to improving access to comprehensive eye care, including treatment of uncorrected refractive errors, and offers affordable eyeglasses that are made onsite. In addition, the center trains physicians to perform screenings and cataract surgeries that restore vision to people who were once blind.
In LSFM’s 20-year history, the center has made great strides against visual impairment and blindness. It has:
- Performed 77,794 cataract surgeries
- Distributed 101,644 pairs of eyeglasses
- Diagnosed and treated 602 cases of diabetic retinopathy
- Trained 60-plus physicians
These accomplishments would not have been possible without LCIF and the support of 53 Lion and Leo clubs. Overall, LCIF has awarded seven grants to LSFM totaling US$4,144,623.
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, LSFM Lion and Leo clubs organized a parade and hosted a massive ophthalmic screening. Later that day, LSFM employees received medals from the Malagasy government for their outstanding contributions.
Visit LCIF.org/BE100 to learn how Campaign 100 will lead the charge to rid the world of infectious blindness, reduce avoidable blindness and visual impairment, and improve overall quality of life of those with blindness or visual impairment.
Jamie Konigsfeld is the marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.