The core values stated below underpin the ethical and professional manner in which we conduct our work, strive towards our purpose, and govern our operations.
The African Eye Institute is inspired by the vision of:
Described as "the most influential optometrist of our generation", the late Prof Holden has contributed significantly - through lecturing, research and innovation - to education, research, advocacy, social advocacy, social enterprise and humanitarian work in eye health, so that all brackets of society could access high quality, affordable eye health care.
Prof Naidoo is a National Research Foundation B-rated researcher, educator and internationally celebrated public health leader who has has devoted his working life to reducing avoidable blindness and vision impairment, with special emphasis on refractive error. He has been revolutionizing access and delivery to eye care in Africa and for the globally disadvantaged.
We are an Africa-wide non-profit development organization with an aim to reduce avoidable blindness and vision impairment caused by refractive errors and other eye deficiencies.
Developing African countries suffer from a disproportionate burden of disease and insufficient allocation of health resources. For this reason, the African Eye Institute (AEI) has established a strong and extensive presence in Africa over more than 20 years, prioritising and delivering quality eye health services in a systematic, holistic and equitable manner.
This is achieved through research, child eye care programmes, paediatric human resource development and optometry service delivery through comprehensive eye health.
The African Eye Institute contributes significantly to the development of public health and eye health through the following focus areas:
Increasing Capacity in Eye Health Human Resources
The delivery of equitable eye health within the African context is a fundamental challenge, as is the availability of trained eye health personnel within the public health space across the continent, particularly in rural communities. We collaborate with governments and other stakeholders to develop capacity for and employment of human resources for eye health, advocating for the training and employment of eye health personnel, and supporting the training of community-based workers, nurses, teachers and optometrists. Examples of successful interventions are the establishment of schools of optometry and low vision capacity building.
Supporting the Development of Eye Health Services
One of our key focus areas is the implementation of models for comprehensive eye health services and child eye care, and addressing inequity due to location (rural versus urban), socioeconomic status and gender are integral to these efforts. These models are implemented in partnership with governments and funding partners and lay the basis for scaling up across a country or region. Training, infrastructure development, equipment supply, provision of assistive devices and supply chain development are core activities in these models.
Eye Health in Schools
Providing eye health services to schools aids children achieve their full academic and social potential. The lack of eye care services in under-served communities has long-lasting, negative consequences for many children. Evidence suggests that half the world’s population will be myopic (short-sighted) by 2050, and it is estimated that the current annual cost to the global economy in lost productivity due to uncorrected distance refractive error alone is $272 billion. The substantial projected increase in demand for eye exams and glasses due to myopia is likely to have significant consequences in terms of lost educational and economic productivity. To slow or reverse this trend, AEI has implemented school screening programmes to reach children while their eyes are still developing.
Global Resource Centre
Many children and adults with visual impairment that cannot be corrected by treatment, surgery or eyeglasses may require low vision services, which are often not readily available and may be expensive. The Global Resource Centre (GRC), located at our offices in Durban, addresses the availability of affordable spectacles, low vision devices and equipment to public sector service providers, including governments and non-profit organisations. AEI also has a strong focus on strengthening services by training low vision specialists, optometry personnel and rehabilitation specialists and ensuring the supply of low vision devices as needed. Training in the use of assistive devices and technology is also provided by qualified staff to people with visual impairment.
The impact of the work undertaken by AEI over the past two decades can be summarised as follows:
We have created awareness in communities to improve eye care knowledge, sensitisation on visual impairment,
change in attitudes, prioritisation of vision issues and the dismantling of stigmas and exclusion;
We have facilitated easier and
equitable access to eye care to promote early detection of eye deficiencies
(especially in school-going children) and to improve the health and well-being of those at risk of eye diseases; and
We have strengthened personnel and service delivery in the public health space throughout Africa and it has created jobs and economic stability — through engagement with funding agencies and health ministries by:
a) increasing the capacity in human resources (optometrists, nurses and community health workers) and infrastructure
b) through supplying equipment and assistive devices and developing supply chains.
Thousands more LEARNERS set to benefit from life-changing vision screening
The launch of Phase 3 of the One SAAT (One School at a Time) project is well underway. Hundreds of underprivileged children in KZN schools are benefitting from free vision screening, spectacles and referrals to hospitals for further care, with the aim to reach a further 12 eThekwini District schools by September this year.
Initiated by the African Eye Institute (AEI) and partners CooperVision, OneSight Essilor Luxottica Foundation and Peek Vision, One SAAT started providing KZN children at 11 schools with vision screening in Phase 1 and Phase 2 last year.
The basis for the project lies in the fact that much learning is visual, with academic performance closely linked to a child’s ability to see clearly. To address this in areas where access to eye health is difficult or unaffordable, One SAAT was launched. Through the programme, the AEI optometry team conducts eye screenings, provides necessary referrals and donates spectacles to children in need.
The launch of Phase 3 in March started with pupils and teachers at Nizam Road Primary in Merebank and Phila Combined School in Umlazi. There was much excitement when the team arrived as, for many of these children, this marked their very first vision screening experience.
Commenting on the One SAAT programme, Acting Head of Department of Nizam Road Primary, Sham Maistry said: “My heartfelt appreciation goes out to the wonderful AEI team and their project partners for a very worthy initiative. I have no doubt that better eyesight will improve the academic performance of our learners who are recipients of glasses.”
Other schools that benefitted from One SAAT in May and June this year were Lotus Primary, Settlers Primary, New West Secondary, Bonela Primary, Pemary Ridge Primary and Columbia Primary.
Phase 3 of the One SAAT programme will continue after the winter school holidays. Schools preparing to be a part of this life-changing programme from July are Lenham Primary, Crystal Point Secondary, Macken Mistry Primary and Eqinisweni Primary.
*AEI partners with CooperVision, OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, and Peek Vision.
*One School at a Time is associated with the Berkeley Vision CURE Global Campaign.
Anyone wanting to find out more or show support for On School at a Time programme can contact Nad Ramsarup on 0659949862.