The Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports has launched the country’s first National Eye Health Plan in an effort to tackle avoidable blindness. The five-year 2017–2021 plan will provide a strategic approach to reduce avoidable blindness by 25 per cent by 2021. 

Avoidable blindness is a major health challenge facing the country, with cataract responsible for 60 per cent of blindness. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia and more than two-thirds of the population live in rural areas where there is only one ophthalmologist for every 500,000 people.

The development of the National Eye Health Plan started in July 2015 and was proudly led by The Fred Hollows Foundation in close partnership with key stakeholders including the Ministry of Health and Sports, UN Agencies, the World Health Organization and international non-government organisations.

The Foundation is currently supporting another eye health milestone in Myanmar – the first national-level Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB). This assessment will provide the first detailed state and district level data on the prevalence of blindness which will be critical for the successful implementation of the National Eye Health Plan.

As part of preparations for the RAAB, The Foundation and its partners recently supported 60 ophthalmologists and health staff from 11 states and regions in Myanmar to come together for RAAB training. This training included field work where a record 22 teams conducted tests and pilot surveys in selected villages in central Myanmar. The RAAB will be conducted over the next six months with findings released in 2018.

The National Eye Health Plan and the RAAB mark an exciting new chapter in eye health in Myanmar. The Fred Hollows Foundation has played a key role in raising the profile of avoidable blindness in Myanmar and has worked collaboratively to establish it as a national health priority. 

The Foundation will now support the implementation of the plan and the development of comprehensive and sustainable eye health solutions around the country.