Of the 2.5 billion people in the world that need but lack visual correction, half a billion live in Africa. The scarcity of eye care professionals and appropriate infrastructure, particularly in sub-Saharian Africa, means that only one person in ten benefits from having their vision corrected across the continent.
In addition to expanding its business teams across the continent, now operating in 34 African countries, Essilor is also building ties with NGOs on the ground, who bring their knowledge of local markets. In February this year, Essilor launched a pioneering public-private-partnership in Malawi with the Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Ministry of Health. It aims to transform eye health in Malawi by strengthening the delivery of eye care services across the country. 52 vision care centres will be established at government hospitals over the next four years with the goal of providing vision care to more than 200,000 people. The program’s first vision centre opened near Lilongwe in March 2015. Watch our short video of the program here.
Essilor is also supporting a three-year program by Vision Aid Overseas in Ethiopia that seeks to alleviate poverty by improving the vision of people in some of the poorest regions of the country. Co-funded with a Global Poverty Action Fund grant from the UK government, the program will increase the number of optometrists and health care professionals providing eye care locally, as well as develop school education initiatives to teach children about the benefits of good eye care from an early age. In less than four months from project launch, 5,000 new wearers have been equipped with glasses and the sales of spectacles has helped to increase the number of full-time optometrists in the area from two to six. The program aims to screen 90,000 individuals over three years.
The scale of vision need in Africa is a huge challenge and needs a collective solution. Essilor will continue to develop cross-sector partnerships with NGOs, social entrepreneurs and governments to gain better understanding of local needs and barriers in order to create sustainable projects that will help make vision care more accessible to all.