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Speech on the occasion of the Commemoration of World Sight Day and Eye Care Awareness Month

Speech by the Honourable MEC for Health, Mr Mxolisi Sokatsha, on the occasion of the Commemoration of World Sight Day and Eye Care Awareness Month. Barkley-West, Frances Baard District – Northern Cape, 12 October 2011: 14H00
It is indeed a honour and privilege for me to be part of this auspicious occasion. Today we are commemorating World Sight Day aimed annually to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. World Sight Day is commemorated in 2011 under the theme: “Delivering eye care to the communities”.


As the ANC led government, in our efforts to provide and improve service delivery to our citizens, we are guided by principles of “Batho Pele- People first”. Today, our people are experiencing Batho Pele live- receiving and accessing essential government information and services, specifically focusing on eye care.

In addition, the issues raised by communities in the build-up to the April 2009 national elections provided the basis for Health being prioritized as part of the five priority areas to which the ANC led government has committed to deliver on in the next five years. Based on this, the delivering of essential health services and information today is a direct response to the call of the people. In addition, government developed a Ten Point Plan to address the service delivery challenges faced by the health sector.

The commemoration of World Sight Day and accompanying dissemination of information and delivery of services related to eye care is a direct response to Point 3 –Improving the quality of health services and Point 8 – Mass mobilization for better health for the population.

Ladies and gentlemen, approximately 39 million people worldwide live with blindness and 245 million with low vision. To add salt to the wounds, 90% of the blind live in low income countries. Ironically, 80% of blindness is preventable and treated.

The Northern Cape Department of Health in collaboration with the South-African National Council for the Blind, through it’s division-the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness and VODACOM have taken hands during Eye Care Awareness Month in October to bring much needed information and services relating to eye care to our destitute and most vulnerable people in the Frances Baard District of our province.

During the programme of October, a great number of people in Ritchie, Platfontein, Barkley-West have received much needed spectacles as well as screening, treatment and operations for eye problems. We also held a referral clinic at Prof ZK Matthews Hospital in Barkley-West as well as a Cataract blitz eye operations in the area. Within the next three months similar eyecare programmes and tours will be conducted in the Pixley-Ka Seme, Siyanda and Namaqua districts.

Furthermore, today and into the future, health workers are charged with the responsibility to raise awareness on sight issues and motivate our communities and leader to participate and develop programmes relating to eye care.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to you about the following. Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) are assuming alarming proportion in South Africa. These are your diseases like high blood pressure, hypertension, cholesterol, high sugar levels ect. They account for a larger number of deaths and therefore increase the diseases burden in the country. Currently South Africa is rated three times higher than developed countries according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on the burden of NCDs. This is putting burden on the health system of the country. The promotion of healthy lifestyles has been prioritized as one the critical programmes that needed to be advocated robustly throughout the country among members of the community. Exercise, healthy eating, reducing alcohol intake and smoking will contribute to a more healthy lifestyle.

Breastfeeding is in the process of repositioning and promoted as a key child survival strategy in South Africa. The benefits of breastfeeding are well recognised for both infant and mother. Breastfeeding has profound impact on child’s survival, health, nutrition and development – and we have known this for decades. These benefits will obviously be lost when formula feeding is given. We must all partner to scale up promotion, support and protection of breastfeeding to improve child survival. Encouraging breastfeeding, providing accurate information about the benefits of breastfeeding and support will increase awareness, acceptance, and will encourage more women to do what is best for their babies - and that is to breastfeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to request all to continue with the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign and get yourself and your partner tested for HIV. If you get tested, you will know your status and adapt your lifestyle accordingly. Eating more healthy foods and exercising regularly.

Programme director, I would like to conclude by reiterating the importance of community involvement and participation as well as the process of consultation. Government alone cannot do anything on their own. With your help and inputs, can the planning and the management of health services in your community be successful. We must get involve in local structures like clinic committees regarding health services and programmes and through this you can assist in the monitoring of the Batho pele principles and the Patients Charter Rights.

Working together, we can do more!

I thank you.


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