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What is Lions World Sight Day?

What is Lions World Sight Day?

Lions World Sight Day (LWSD) was launched by Lions Clubs International in 1998 to educate the world about preventable and reversible blindness and the importance of proper eye care. In 1998, blindness prevention and educational events were held in major cities on six continents to increase awareness.

A video broadcast from a Lions’ eye hospital in Kenya was conducted via the Internet in 1999. It was the first time that a community service organisation used the Internet to bring people together from around the world.

In 2000, LWSD was commemorated on an international scale with a massive eye photoscreening of 2,000 pre-verbal children, and government sponsored free eye screenings in Beijing.

For LWSD 2001 Lions SightFirst announced its US$3.75 million grant to support the Project for Elimination of Avoidable Child Blindness at a two-day event in San Paulo, Brazil.

Post September 11, Lions Clubs International marked LWSD with two events – one in Los Angeles and one in Washington DC.

This year vision-screenings for disabled children and cataract surgeries will be held in Seoul, Korea.

Lions World Sight Day in New Zealand

In 2000 LWSD was organised in New Zealand for the first time. The focus was on the Recycle for Sight programme.

For many years Lions clubs around the country have collected old glasses (corrective lenses and sunglasses) for the Voluntary Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO), who provide eyesight screening, glasses and eye operations to communities in need throughout the South Pacific. This is an ongoing year round activity performed by many of the 500+ Lions clubs in New Zealand.

Each year the collection campaign has grown from 5,000 pairs of glasses during the week of LWSD 2001 and 7,500 pairs of glasses for the month, to 8,700 glasses during the week in 2002, and 15,500 for the month.

With the support of OPSM and Visique Optometrists the glasses are collected around the country. It is also with the support of OPSM and Visique Optometrists that key sight and eye care messages are heard and understood by New Zealanders.

LWSD eye care messages are endorsed by the New Zealand Association of Optometrists.

What Can I do to Participate?

Lions Clubs New Zealand is encouraging people to participate in LWSD celebrations by:

Contacting their local Lions Club and asking about sight-related activities they can support.

Scheduling an appointment to have your eyes examined. If you are 40 years or over you should have your eyes checked every two years.

Ensuring your children have their eyes checked before they reach school age.

Donating unwanted eyeglasses and sunglasses to OPSM stores and Visique Optometrists.

Being checked for diabetes.

What Can I Do To Protect My Sight?

It is recommended that everyone in New Zealand has a full eye examination every two years. This will include a pupil dilation if clinically indicated.

Professional eye examinations can detect abnormalities or diseases of the eye, such as: glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, cataract, eye cancers and macular degeneration.

People with diabetes are encouraged to have a dilated pupil examination once a year. Sometimes general health problems such as vascular or neurological abnormalities can also be detected during the course of an eye examination.

Protection from debilitating eye injuries is found by wearing polycarbonate safety glasses when tackling at-home projects such as home improvements. Polycarbonate lenses (whether as safety glasses or as sunglasses) not only protect from injury; they also block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Commonly known as the "sunburn rays," UV radiation rays are invisible and it is now widely accepted that they can cause significant damage to the eye. UV radiation is reflected by surfaces like snow, water and sand. As a precaution, look for sunglasses labelled with full UV coverage.

Sunglasses should block 99 -100% of the full UV spectrum to 400 nanometers. Inexpensive sunglasses are rated for the proper UV protection. Not all sunglasses will protect eyes from invisible light.

How Many People Worldwide are Blind?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that currently there are 180 million people worldwide who are visually impaired. Of these people, 45 million are blind and cannot walk unaided. Eighty percent of all blindness is preventable or reversible. Three leading causes of avoidable blindness are cataract, trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness). All three are preventable through inexpensive and proven treatments.

People who live in developing countries are 10 times more likely to go blind than people in highly industrialized countries. Eighty-five percent of this unnecessary and avoidable blindness in the world is found in Africa and Asia. Without efforts to improve access to eye care services, WHO estimates that the number of people who are blind in the world would almost double, to approximately 90 million, in less than 25 years.

What Is Lions Clubs International’s Involvement In Blindness Prevention?

Lions Clubs International began service for the blind and visually impaired after Helen Keller issued a challenge to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness” during the Lions’ 1925 International Convention.

Today, Lions extend their commitment to sight conservation through countless local efforts, as well as through the international SightFirst program. SightFirst was established in 1990 and is a US$140 million global initiative to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness.

To date, the SightFirst program has:

Funded 136 eye clinics and hospitals that are completed or under construction.

Provided more than 3 million cataract operations.

More than 36 million treatments for river blindness.

Screened more than 6 million patients for eye disease.

Trained 13,000 eye care professionals.

Trained more than 53,000 village health workers for primary eye care services.

In addition to the SightFirst program, Lions clubs continue to support other sight-related activities by:

Providing 600,000 free professional glaucoma screenings and 20,000 corneal transplants each year.

Establishing and supporting a majority of the world’s eye banks, clinics, hospitals and eye research centers worldwide.

Collecting more than five million pairs of old, unwanted eyeglasses for distribution in developing countries annually.

Providing thousands each year with free quality eye care, eyeglasses, Braille-writers, large print texts, white canes and guide dogs.

Offering screenings, eyeglasses and sports goggles through the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program.

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