Sightsavers joins WHO initiative to improve access to spectacles

May 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched an initiative to help tackle refractive error, which is the world’s biggest cause of visual impairment.

Sightsavers and other eye health organisations will work with WHO and national governments to improve the global coverage of refractive error services, including access to spectacles, by 40% over the next six years.

The initiative, called SPECS 2030, will address five key challenges in eye care:

  • Improving access to quality, affordable services
  • Building the capacity of staff to provide refractive services
  • Improving education and awareness
  • Reducing the cost of refractive services
  • Strengthening surveillance and research

Despite spectacles being a highly cost-effective solution, there is a huge unmet need for refractive error services. Worldwide, it’s estimated that only 36% of people with a distance vision impairment have access to an appropriate pair of glasses, and more than 800 million people struggle with reading due to refractive error.

Sumrana Yasmin, Sightsavers’ deputy technical director of eye health and uncorrected refractive error, said: “We welcome this much-needed global initiative, which has a vision of strengthening and empowering national eye health systems to increase effective coverage of refractive error services.

“We know how impactful a simple pair of spectacles can be in improving education and livelihood opportunities, and the quality of life of people with vision impairment. With SPECS 2030, the future for how we achieve universal eye health coverage is charged with potential. We just need to have the vision to make it happen with proactive and collective action.”

Patience from Liberia wearing her new glasses, whilst standing next to her mother, betty.

We can transform access to spectacles

A pair of glasses can be life-changing for someone with uncorrected refractive error. That’s why Sightsavers has joined the World Health Organization’s SPECS 2030 initiative.

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