With over 7,000 islands, more than 400 coral species, crystal clear waters and sandy white beaches, the Philippines is a tropical wonderland. While rich in natural beauty, it also faces many extremes – from mega malls to mega slums, village fiestas to natural disasters. Through all this, you’ll find positive, vibrant people ready to face whatever comes their way.
An introduction to the Philippines
The Philippines has experienced a varied and somewhat troubled past. First, there were 300 years of Spanish colonisation, followed by another 50 years of American control. When the country was finally declared independent, it experienced economic growth and democracy, but was thrown back into widespread poverty, famine and corruption for over 20 years under the hands of the former Filipino dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.
The Philippines of today is a country of contrasts. There is great wealth in the capital, Manila, and other large cities with a strong middle class and high levels of employment. In rural areas and urban fringes, however, unemployment and poverty persist, with some families having to rely on money sent home from family members working overseas. It is in these circumstances of poverty that eye health issues become rife and why our work here is so important. This was proved by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who found a fourfold economic return for every dollar invested in eliminating avoidable blindness in countries like the Philippines.
What are the eye health problems?
In a population of around 100 million, avoidable blindness affects roughly 600,000 Filipino people. Cataract is the greatest problem, with new cases overwhelming the current health system. Those suffering live mostly in impoverished areas, with lack of access to even the most basic eye care. Sadly, most eye care services are in the capital, Manila, where the wealthy can afford private ophthalmologists’ fees.
Community eye care is almost non-existent in the Philippines and is not part of the government’s basic health care services. There is also little incentive for ophthalmologists to work in rural areas where the need is greatest; however, we’re specifically working with our partners to address these issues.
The Foundation’s programs in the Philippines
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot in 2016:
Research, training and technology
- Supported 18,846 eye operations and treatments including 2,048 sight restoring cataract surgeries
- Distributed 1,870 pairs of glasses
- Educated 24,163 school children and community members in eye health
- Trained 1,728 people, including 1,303 community health workers and 369 teachers.