The Times 2013 Christmas appeal to support global fight against preventable blindness

sightsavers_logoReaders asked to give the gift of sight to more than 285,000 people around the world this Christmas   

The Times is partnering with international charity Sightsavers for this year’s Christmas appeal to raise much-needed funds for the prevention of blindness, including the fight against the infectious eye disease trachoma.

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and can be easily treated with antibiotics or surgery and prevented through improved sanitation and hygiene.

As many as 1.2 million people are estimated to be irreversibly blind due to the disease and 110 million are confirmed at risk of infection.

Endemic in some of the poorest parts of the world, trachoma can be prevented with antibiotics for as little as 35p per person. The Times appeal typically raises at least £100,000 for each of the charities it supports, thanks to the generosity of its readers. This year the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people across the world is great.

Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Times, said: “We chose to support Sightsavers this year, focusing on the blinding disease trachoma. Sightsavers has a formula that can cure the disease and restore vision through surgery for as little as £8 per person. I believe our readers will get behind Sightsavers, donate generously and play their part in helping to eliminate this terrible disease.”

Sightsavers Chief Executive, Caroline Harper, said: “Trachoma is a disease of poverty which is easily prevented and treated if caught early enough. Last year, Sightsavers treated more than 12 million people and performed more than 20,500 surgeries for advanced trachoma. Our work not only restores sight, it gives people back their ability to look after their children and earn an income to support their families.

“Living with trachoma is to live in constant agonising pain, the patient’s eyelashes gradually scratching away their ability to see. The Times appeal will allow us to reach more people with life-changing prevention and treatment in 2014.”

Working with partners, Sightsavers is also leading a trachoma survey of 30 countries over the next two years – the biggest global mapping of a disease ever. Using mobile technology to upload the results from the village level to an online map, local health professionals and analysts have been screening an average of one person per minute to check for the highly infectious eye disease.

If left untreated, repeated infections cause the inside of the eyelid to scar so severely that it turns inward, causing the eyelashes to scratch and scar the cornea, eventually resulting in irreversible blindness.

Trachoma is prevented and treated through the internationally-recognised SAFE strategy, which includes surgery, antibiotics, face washing and environmental improvements.

To increase the impact of The Times appeal, River Island, the high street fashion retailer, has generously said it will match Times readers’ donations up to £25,000.

The Times journalists will be reporting from Ghana, Senegal and Kenya from 28 November throughout December and meeting Sightsavers’ staff, health workers and surgeons at work.

To donate online, visit: www.thetimes.co.uk/timesappeal

Sightsavers is a registered UK charity that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired.  www.sightsavers.org

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