More than 5,000 people walked through the streets of Hyderabad, Pakistan, recently as part of the Mother Child Health Week.

The Fred Hollows Foundation took advantage of the walk to raise awareness amongst women and children about available eye health services in the city.

On the day, lady health workers were busy distributing The Foundation’s eye health leaflets to women. The leaflets explain where to go for eye treatment and screening, provide basic eye care advice and highlight the growing problem of diabetes-related blindness.

Many women in Pakistan cannot access eye health services. Often they look after the households, the animals and the children and cannot get away from their duties to receive treatment for avoidable blindness.

The Government’s lady health workers are the face of one of the most successful public health programs in Pakistan. They reach thousands of women and girls who would otherwise remain isolated in their homes.

Asfandyar Khan, The Foundation’s project officer in Pakistan said “It was just wonderful to see so many people turn out, because the health of mothers is paramount to the healthy family and community. If the mother is healthy, the children will be healthy.”

The Foundation is working with Hyderabad Eye Hospital to increase the number of people receiving quality childhood and diabetes-related eye care by providing sophisticated equipment, training eye health staff and developing an efficient patient record system.

Hyderabad Eye Hospital was already screening more than 200 patients a day. Now, because of Foundation support as well as awareness raising at events like the walk, this is expected to increase significantly.

“The Hospital’s screening program is highly effective,” Asfandyar said. “Sometimes mothers don’t realise their child has a squint or cataract. Refractive errors can be highly treatable and minor intervention and care can overcome many eye diseases.”

Many of the eye health workers at Hyderabad Eye Hospital have been trained with The Foundation’s support.

Since The Foundation’s work in Pakistan began in 1998, the prevalence of blindness has halved from 1.78 per cent to 0.9 per cent.