Across Pakistan nearly one in ten people are visually impaired, with more than two million people blind in both eyes. The Foundation has a strong partnership with the Government of Pakistan and is working in all four provinces of the country.
In Pakistan, hundreds of people go blind every day, often from preventable causes like cataract. People in Western countries have ready access to cataract surgery, but in Pakistan most people don’t.
Most eye care services are only available in Pakistan's major cities. Around two-thirds of the country’s population, and most people who are affected, live in remote areas without access to health services.
Most people are unable to travel to get help – many simply can't afford the expense. Traditional women are particularly disadvantaged as they are not expected to travel alone.
"Reaching the population of Pakistan is not easy," says Dr Gillani, The Foundation’s Country Manager. "It is also very hard to change attitudes. The Foundation has come out with a multi-pronged approach. We have trained the doctors, held eye clinics, introduced quality into the recipients and providers perspective. That has been challenging."
Since The Foundation started work in Pakistan in 1998, the rate of blindness is down from 1.8% of the population to 0.9%.
Our aim is to build up Pakistan’s existing health systems so that we can bring sustainable eye care services to every corner of the country.
Working together with our partners in 2015 we:
- Examined the eyes of over 276,508 people and performed over 64,000 eye operations and treatments
- Supported 18,849 sight restoring cataract surgeries
- Supported 5,001 procedures to treat diabetic retinopathy
- Distributed 4,182 pairs of glasses
- Trained 27 clinic support staff and 1,752 community health workers
- Built one facility, renovated two more, and equipped another six
- Donated $258,088 worth of equipment
- Educated 4,986 school children and community members in eye health
About the program
The Foundation has been working in Pakistan since 1998. Since then, we have worked to build local capacity through strong and wide-ranging partnerships to help the local eye health system become capable of looking after the country’s own eye care needs. We have also worked to develop and support national and provincial coordination systems for effective eye care planning and implementation.
Since 1998 The Foundation has helped develop 50 comprehensive eye units by training health workers, providing equipment/medical instruments, refurbishing hospitals, supporting systems and running community awareness campaigns.
The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) has been the main funder of The Foundation’s work in Pakistan.
AusAID funded The Foundation’s first national program to address cataract, “Microsurgical Training Program for Cataract’’, from 1998 to 2001 across the country. In this process, more than 120 eye units were developed for the delivery of cataract services.
From 2002 to 2013 AusAID provided two rounds of funding for “Pakistan Australia District Eye Care Project’’ (PADEC). This was to strengthen the district-based eye care systems through the provision of human resource development, equipment, systems development and advocacy campaigns.
The Australian Government is also supporting our work with the Government of Pakistan on a five-year project called the “Pakistan-Australia Sub-specialty Eye Care’’ (PASEC) Project, launched in 2009. This project has resulted in the establishment of childhood and diabetes-related blindness sub-specialty services in existing tertiary eye units at both district and provincial levels across the country, and developed referral mechanisms and community awareness to increase demand for these services. The project has supported the provision of new equipment, training for ophthalmic teams in relevant sub-specialties, infrastructure upgrades and the development of new quality control systems.
The Pakistan program also involves building the capacity of "Comprehensive Eye Care" (CEC) Cells, through training and support in each province. The CEC Cells are able to support and guide the district community eye care programs. The setting up of these CEC Cells has enabled effective planning, implementation and monitoring of outcomes over time by the partners themselves. A major role for these Cells is supporting district headquarter hospitals by treating common eye diseases and promoting awareness and confidence in district-level ophthalmic services.
Through this kind of support The Foundation has helped progress the National Programme for Prevention of Blindness in Pakistan. The National Programme provided the major pieces of equipment to eye units at the tertiary, secondary and primary level across Pakistan, while the provincial governments provide the required human resources, space and running costs, and The Foundation has been filling the gaps in infrastructure, equipment and human resource development.
In Pakistan, due to low literacy, many fears and myths surround eye health treatment. In addition to this, women often won’t leave home to seek medical help for religious or cultural reasons. To address this, The Foundation has piloted the concept of female counsellors to encourage female patients to seek eye care services for themselves and their children.
The Foundation is currently working across all four provinces in Pakistan.
Farooq Awan, Country Manager
Farooq Awan is the integral to The Foundation's program in Pakistan. He holds tertiary qualifications in Public Health, Business Administration and Finance and has experience in designing and implementing complex social sector projects.
My vision for eye health sector in Pakistan is to have robust and resilient health system which is self-sustaining, offers high quality services and caters to the needs of most marginalized and vulnerable groups...
- Farooq Awan, Pakistan Country Manager
"A country manager needs to keep up with the political, cultural and socioeconomic outlook of the country and ensure all projects balance these three aspects," he says. He believes that being a country manager involves managing multiple delicate partnerships while remaining a strong advocate for the cause of ending avoidable blindness.