Light for the World – combating preventable blindness


By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Franko Petri of the organisation Light for the World working for people with disabilities in Eastern Africa, in particular in Ethiopia and Kenya, combating preventable blindness. For ProMosaik, it is very important to show approaches and projects for disabled people in developing countries to compare one with another and to learn one from another. A last interview we conducted was with an organization in Namibia, helping people with Clash NamibiaClaSH Namibia – engaged for children with language, speech, and hearing impairments.

How was Light for the World founded?
Light for the World was founded in 1988 in Austria to help to combat preventable blindness.
Among the first projects of the young organisation were eye care units and rehabilitation programmes in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Since then the organisation has grown in impact and reach, also tackling the systemic inequality which people with disabilities face, especially in low-income countries.

Light for the World’s vision is an inclusive society for all, where no one is left behind and everybody can participate equally.

In 2015, Light for the World helped: 

·         7.7 million people receive antibiotics
·         1.1 million people receive eye health consultations
·         50,000 people receive cataract surgeries
·         26,000 people receive trachoma surgeries
·         47,000 children with disabilities receive rehabilitation support
·         7,800 children with disabilities to receive a school education
We will continue our work for and with persons with disabilities in underserved regions of the world and in their communities.




photo credit © Ulrich Eigner


What are the main challenges that people with disabilities face in developing countries?

People with disabilities in developing countries face many challenges–from poverty and a lack of infrastructure, to barriers to medical support and to an education.
Take the example of Rihanata from Taksenin, Burkina Faso. She was just five years old when she contracted malaria. The infection attacked her nervous system, leaving her unable to move.
Rihanata’s parents were devastated by these developments and did not know what to do; they feared the worse—that Rihanata would not be able to attend school and that so many hopes for her childhood and future were lost forever.
Their fears were not unfounded. Shockingly, children with disabilities in Burkina Faso are around two and a half time less likely to go to school than children without disabilities.
Thankfully, with the support of Light for the World and our partners, Rihanata was supported to be able to learn how to write with her left hand and eventually attend school alongside her friends from the village. She is now one of the best students in her class.
In our day-to-day work Light for the World comes across many cases, like Rihanata’s,which show the great  inequality in the world when it comes to the availability of opportunities and resources for people with disabilities.
Light for the World is committed to redressing this inequality.

How do you support people with disabilities? 

Light for the World supports people with disabilities in a number of ways.
We work with partners to help make more inclusive and prosperous societies by ensuring children with disabilities can go to school, adults with disabilities can work, and people with disabilities are empowered in development efforts.
This includes, for example, supporting inclusive education projects in which students with and without disabilities can learn together and from each other.
These initiatives are closely interwoven with community based rehabilitation (CBR) and livelihood programmes.
Light for the World also works to prevent blindness and eye diseases in some of the most underserved communities around the world.
We have built an international reputation in the field of eye health. We support comprehensive eye health provision, build eye clinics, support the training of ophthalmologists and opticians. In addition we are taking part in the worldwide effort to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020.
All of our work is underpinned by the principles of the UNCRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) – which we advocate for on an international and a local level.

                                                           photo credit © Ulrich Eigner


How do you select and identify the communities where you intervene?
We strive to work in those areas where we are needed most and where we can have the most impact. To make these decisions, we consult with our local partners, build on our past experience and analyse the local setting.

We also pay specific attention to women with disabilities, children with disabilities and more excluded impairment groups within the disability community; as these groups are often particularly marginalized.

Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?

Absolutely–we work hand-in-hand with local partners, who best know the local needs and context.
We also work with local authorities to ensure the change we advocate for is embedded into existing structures.
In this way, we create awareness of health issues in the areas of eye care, disability inclusion and inclusive education.
One example of our work is, after our sustained awareness raising efforts, working hand-in-hand with our local partners, the government of Mozambique has decided to include Community Based Rehabilitation into their social welfare policy and receive advice on its implementation from disability organizations and NGOs like Light for the World.
How can international donors, institutions and foundations help to expand your activities and increase your impact?
Light for the World is entirely reliant on the generous support of donors, institutions and foundations to carry out its work.
There are many ways people can make a difference: be it individuals giving just 30 euros to save someone’s eyesight; partners joining our call for a more inclusive society; or foundations helping us achieve long-term scalable change in some of the poorest countries in the world.
You can find more information on how you can help at: