In a country of over 10 million people, Haiti has only three local optometrists. This number is about to change as the country’s first School of Optometry & Vision Sciences opened at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of I’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti. Haiti has the highest level of blindness and vision impairment in the region—three times higher than other countries in the region—due to a critical shortage of qualified eyecare professionals. Over the last five years, OPTOMETRY GIVING SIGHT and its partners from the global optometric community have come together to address this and ensure the people of Haiti can be trained to help their own communities and their fellow Haitians see a better future.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the northern hemisphere yet working isn’t always an option, even for skilled tradespeople. “I can’t make a living without having my sight,” says Roc Villus, a Haitian shoemaker. Thanks to the efforts of Optometry Giving Sight and its partners, Villus was given glasses and is now able to support his family again. The shortage of eyecare services leaves the majority of the Haitian people without adequate vision care. The school’s five-year degree program will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year. “The new graduates will have a significant impact for the eyecare landscape in Haiti, each being able to see 3,000 patients per year on average,” explains Dr. Juan Carlos Aragon, chair of Optometry Giving Sight.
Susan and Tom Quinn, OD, Vision Source optometrists from Ohio and Optometry Giving Sight supporters for over 10 years, were among those who recently traveled to Haiti to take part in the school’s first community outreach programs. “We’ve seen firsthand how the work of Optometry Giving Sight delivers on the vision of building optometry schools, educating talented local young people and providing continuity of care in underserved countries around the globe.” Jeff Duncan, executive vice president and COO at Vision Source, a major donor and partner to the project says, “Vision Source feels privileged to play a role in helping build a sustainable foundation to change this. Partnering with Optometry Giving Sight underscores Vision Source’s mission of ‘enriching lives by enabling independent optometrists to reach their full potential.’”
This sustainable mindset and support from the global optometric community play a vital role in helping Optometry Giving Sight’s mission to provide vision care in Haiti and around the world. To support the Haiti Optometry Program, contact [email protected].