The challenges of inclusive eye care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Stories | August 14, 2020

For the first time in a long time, individuals across the globe are united in facing the same crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the generous support of Australians, CBM Australia was able to contribute to the prevention of the virus spread in the Dien Bien province of Vietnam through an ongoing Inclusive Eye Care project.

Through utilising the network of eye care centres in the region and strong links with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), critical COVID-19 public heath advice was shared and amplified through posters and leaflets in three different local languages across the region, including Vietnamese, H’Mong, and Thai language. These networks provided an invaluable means of sharing and disseminating information throughout the community.

To ensure people with vision impairments or those with low literacy in the province were equally supported with key safety messages, public health announcements in local languages were also broadcast across radio stations and through the use of loudspeakers within communities, with terrific results. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the total population of the province was reached with this inclusive messaging strategy, contributing to slowing the spread of the virus. To reach the remote districts – those bordering with Laos and China that were at high risk of quickly being overwhelmed by the virus should it be allowed to spread – community health workers were trained on COVID-19 prevention measures which, as front-line health staff providing essential care to the community, were able to disseminate these message to ethnic minority groups in their local language.

In addition to the message of COVID-19 prevention, hygiene kits with essential items such as soap and masks were provided to people with disabilities living in poverty in the region. The competing pressures of basic needs like food and essential medicines often means that hygiene products are unaffordable and deprioritised, even when people knew how important they were. Hygiene kits were a critical part of a twin-track approach to ensuring their protection against COVID-19 and that no one is left behind.

Pledge to stand in solidarity with all our neighbours, and encourage our government to provide vital support to vulnerable nations by signing the End COVID For All pledge here.

The Strengthening Eye Care Services and Promoting Inclusive Community project received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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