World Sight Day is a public relations campaign by the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness. Started in 2000, it is an international day of awareness focusing on global issues of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. It’s held every second Thursday of October and this year falls on the tenth.
Mina Espeleta Administrative and Finance Assistant at the St Lucia Blind Welfare Association, outlined some of the issues facing the island.
“Right now in St Lucia I think that we still need a lot of work when it comes to sensitizing the public about their eye health because what happens is we get people when they already have a problem with their eyes, so it’s more when you’re already experiencing things, you’re not seeing properly, you have a pain in your eye, then we get to see them at Blind Welfare to check their eyes. All we want is for people to be aware that they don’t have to wait for anything to happen or for their eyes to go bad before you go and test your eyes. You have to be proactive about your eye health because for people like you and me we have normal eyesight. But as son as we lose the eyesight then we realize how important it is. You don’t really know the impact of something until you lose it.”
In St Lucia refractive error, shortsightedness and farsightedness, are the most common afflictions but other ailments are proving quite problematic.
“In the Caribbean there are five major eye diseases that has been identified by the Caribbean Council for the Blind, which Blind Welfare Association is a part of. That’s cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy; as you know in St Lucia we have a really high prevalence of diabetes. So people are actually still not aware diabetes can affect your eyes. Also we have childhood blindness. In St Lucia the case of childhood blindness is caused by cataract, congenital cataract. As the baby is born cataract is already there. Another misconception is that cataract is only when you get old but there are a lot of babies that are born with cataracts and if they are not removed then they go blind. It’s a simple surgery where you just scrape off the cloudiness of the lens.”
Espeleta shared the association’s plans to commemorate the occasion.
“The day is Thursday and on that day what we are trying to do is sensitize the public by using different media platforms; radio, tv, print, to get the message out. The global theme is ‘Universal Eye Health’ and the focus for this year is ‘Get your eyes tested’. So that’s what we’re doing on the eleventh. On Friday at the Blind Welfare Association from 9-12 pm, we will have free vision assessment, to tell you if you are 20/20 , 20/40. Then we will be able to tell if further examination is necessary for you.” to prevent any serious eye problems.”
The Blind Welfare Association is located in Sans Soucis.