Increasing access to eyeglasses for all Cambodians, an innovative project that will shape the market for eyeglasses has been launched in Cambodia by international eye health organisation The Fred Hollows Foundation. 

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of ATscale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, the US$2.1 million project will run for two years and will be managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services.

“In Cambodia, thousands of people are living with some form of blindness or vision impairment. For many of them, a pair of eyeglasses is all they need to see clearly again and perform their daily activities. It’s a seemingly simple solution, but there are still many gaps in the market for eyeglasses in the country,” The Foundation’s Cambodia Country Manager Mr Tokyo Bak said.

“We have a limited supply of affordable but high-quality eyeglasses in Cambodia, and there is little demand for them because people don’t have access to regular eye checks and services.” 

As part of the project, The Foundation will work closely with the Cambodian Government and other partners to research health financing, strengthen service provision models, and address other elements that influence the market for eyeglasses. 

The project comes at a critical time as the Government is developing its next five-year National Eye Health Plan.

“To increase the supply and demand for eyeglasses, we will scale proven school eye health programs and establish vision centres in 16 provinces so people can have regular eye checks and receive the eye care they need. We will also create communication campaigns to influence people’s behaviours towards wearing eyeglasses,” Mr Bak said.

About 80,000 children will access affordable glasses and 30,000 women and men living below the poverty line will obtain subsidised glasses. Importantly, permanent access to eye health services and glasses will be created. 
“This is a game-changing project that will influence how eye health programs are being delivered,” said Ms. Hanh Nguyen, Acting USAID/Cambodia Mission Director. “We will provide eyeglasses and refractive services to the public, and test and refine an entire system that encourages these services to be delivered regularly, efficiently and equitably.”

“The success of this project will benefit not just Cambodia and the eye health sector. Potentially, our model can also be replicated and scaled in other countries, or for other assistive technological devices such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, and prostheses.”

Jon Lomøy, Chair of the ATscale Board, said: “Globally at least 826 million people do not have the eyeglasses they need, which can have a negative impact on their health, education, quality of life, and general wellbeing. We also know that this unmet need is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries. 

“Increasing access to eyeglasses calls for a multisectoral approach that brings together the public and the private sector, multilateral organisations, civil society actors and donors. It requires an approach that increases demand for eyeglasses, raises the number of access points for screening and provision, and accelerates the availability of affordable products. That is exactly what this program aims to achieve.”

The project will be implemented in close partnership with the Cambodian Ministries of Health, Education, Youth and Sport, Women’s Affairs, and of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Disabled People's Organisations, and a large private sector partner.