Last week, we committed to further expanding our inclusive business and philanthropic programmes to eliminate unprotected and uncorrected poor vision in the Kingdom of Bhutan, where 25% of the population suffer from uncorrected poor vision. Additionally, the population is at risk of exposure to harmful UV rays due to high altitude.
On December 7th we signed Letters of Intent with the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Central Monastic Body to sustainably strengthen the country’s vision care infrastructure. In line with our common ambition to eliminate unprotected and uncorrected poor vision, we will address the two biggest barriers to good vision, access and awareness, through training and capacity building, philanthropic support and awareness-raising.
We are proud to be collaborating with the Bhutanese government to develop a strategy and actions which will see poor vision eliminated from the country.
Chairman of Essilor, Hubert Sagnières, commented: “Poor vision affects every aspect of a person’s life, impacting their ability to learn, to work, to live independently and to realize their full potential. We are proud to be collaborating with the Bhutanese government to develop a strategy and actions which will see poor vision eliminated from the country. This will bring further prosperity and happiness to its people, and Essilor one important step closer to its ambition of eliminating poor vision worldwide within one generation.”
I am confident that this partnership is the start of a compassionate friendship with a common goal to render help to the most in need.
Speaking about the partnership, Bhutan’s Minister of Health, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, said: “I am extremely happy to share, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, that the Ministry of Health is honoured to be a partner in Essilor’s vision to eliminate poor vision. I am confident that this partnership is the start of a compassionate friendship with a common goal to render help to the most in need.”
To address the lack of skilled eye care professionals and access to eyewear, we will bring our flagship inclusive-business, Eye Mitra™ (“Friend of the eye” in Hindi), from India to Bhutan. By training women and men to become primary vision care providers and micro-entrepreneurs, we will support qualified students to open up their own optical stores in their communities. This will not only help to sustainably improve access to affordable quality eyecare across the Kingdom of Bhutan, but also to bring socio-economic value to rural communities.
Additionally, we will also train existing government health assistants, village health workers and monks from the Central Monastic Body, to do basic visual acuity tests, distribute simple reading glasses and direct patients with refractive errors to eye health practitioners, including the newly-trained micro-entrepreneurs if necessary.
To meet the immediate need for correction and protection, we will donate 400,000 pairs of corrective eyewear and sunglasses, to be dispensed via existing healthcare programmes over the course of this partnership. This donation will be sufficient to provide first-time eyewear to all Bhutanese citizens suffering from uncorrected refractive errors, around 25% of the population, and those living at very high altitudes exposed to high levels of harmful UV light and in need of protection.
In parallel, we will support the Bhutanese Ministry of Health in its “National Eye Health Strategic Plan” (2018-2024) by contributing to the development of national guidelines and a legal regulation framework for optical services and practice. And to further address consumer attitudes and the lack of awareness around poor vision, Essilor together with the Ministry of Health will work on developing a nation-wide awareness-raising campaign to sensitise the general public to the need for vision correction and protection and the life changing benefits it can have.