The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at a time of growth for our organization. While the tragedy has stalled our efforts to combat the epidemic of needless blindness, we will not allow this virus to undo our progress. We are using this time to regroup, redesign and restructure our programs so that our work will continue and emerge even stronger as the crisis subsides—and beyond.
Building in-country eye care capabilities operated by local professionals remains central to our approach. As such, we have amplified our engagement with our in-country partners to help them support their own communities through this crisis. The progress we are making together underscores the effectiveness of our partner-focused approach.
The growing backlog of global blindness has not paused because of the virus. Because most eye diseases progress with age, the longer blind patients must wait for treatment, the greater the suffering they and their families must endure. We observe and are challenged by this suffering every day. It motivates our team of global partners, volunteer healthcare workers, and everyone engaged with HCP | CureBlindness worldwide. Rather than resting on past success, our focus during this crisis has been on how to make our programs stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable as we face the uncertainty of the next few years.
COVID-19 has impacted all of our stakeholders and programs. As is the case worldwide, live clinical and surgical training is on hold. All non-urgent, elective surgery has been suspended, and outreach activity has been postponed. We are mitigating the near-term effects of this temporary “pause” for our organization and in-country partners, while introducing operational changes so that we can safely and efficiently resume our programs as soon as the crisis eases.
COVID-19 has already caused a substantial spike in the rate of blindness among the most vulnerable. Eye care has been suspended worldwide, and continuing fear of contagion will discourage many patients from seeking elective care in the near future. This, and the pent up demand for services, will cause even more patients to lose sight from undiagnosed and untreated eye disease.
We are coordinating with our partners to develop institution specific responses to the virus. Our international network has helped develop effective protocols to decrease viral transmission in the eye care setting.
We are providing ongoing support to our partners by:
- Equipping our diverse network of in-country partners with the information they need to keep themselves and their patients safe. We are also helping facilitate communication between doctors from around the world to the countries we operate in, sharing medical knowledge and stories of hope.
- Linking our partners and doctors to CDC and World Health Organization updates and resources on best practices to prevent the spread of the virus. Many of our partners serve patients in areas that lack ready access to the internet and life-saving information. We are providing them with information on preparing their practices for COVID-19, how to utilize available materials for masks and shields, and suggesting ways to get vital information to remote patients.
- Assessing the needs of our 35 partner treatment centers in the event that additional clinics and ophthalmic personnel are called into emergency medical service. We are asking partners for inventories of life-saving equipment and where it is located, and for assessments of needed supplies.
HCP | CureBlindness empowers local physicians and medical systems to treat, train, adapt, and grow. This locally-rooted, stable foundation enables everything we do.
Focusing on workforce training has created capable teams that have proved invaluable in the current crisis. While international fellowships and training have been paused, our virtual education efforts have expanded. Facilitating access to remote teaching conferences from around the world has continued cognitive skill trainings, and we expect this to become a greater emphasis going forward. Our educational focus is now on transforming curricula from in-person to remote based to broaden the impact.
In low- and middle-income countries, where health care delivery was already woefully insufficient, a lengthy pandemic threatens to explode the rate of new blindness. As even the most affluent societies must confront this unprecedented financial and public health crisis, even less attention and support will be directed to the plight of the poor and vulnerable in remote areas of the world.
How you can help
Eye emergencies did not stop with the COVID-19 outbreak. We must renew our mission to assure that the most susceptible populations are not ignored. Eye care continues in our partner institutions but is focused on urgent and emergent cases so that the risks of each interaction is justified by its benefit. HCP | CureBlindness has focused on helping each entity navigate these new challenges and fulfill its responsibilities as a part of the wider response.
Your support will help us sustain our efforts to cure needless blindness and provide assistance to our partners in these challenging times.