Essilor and the Royal Government of Bhutan have officially launched a partnership to help eradicate poor vision in the small Asian country. The first step will consist in the delivery of 10,000 pairs of eyeglasses for use in a “Bhutan School Sight” program, organized by the Bhutan Ministry of Health.

The program offers free vision screening for all students aged 6 to 18 and equips those in need with free glasses. The program, which is currently underway, will be completed by October. The adult screening program will begin in 2020. As part of the partnership, starting from the last quarter of 2019, nearly 200 health assistants will be trained to conduct basic visual acuity tests, distribute reading glasses and direct patients with vision problems to eye health practitioners.

In December 2018, Essilor signed a Letter of Intent with the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Central Monastic Body to strengthen the country's vision care infrastructure and help eradicate unprotected and uncorrected poor vision in its population, with the goal of donating 400,000 pairs of corrective glasses and sunglasses. An estimated 25 percent of the people in Bhutan suffer from uncorrected refractive errors and a large portion of the population is at risk of UV radiation due to high altitudes.

Meanwhile, Essilor announced a new milestone in its Eye Mitra program in India. It said that its inclusive 2.5 New Vision Generation (2.5 NVG) business arm has supplied glasses to more than 10 million people in under-served rural areas in India since 2013, when 2.5 NVG was established.

Eye Mitra, which is the Hindi for “friend of the eyes,” is 2.5 NVG's flagship program. To address the issue of uncorrected poor vision, the program recruits and trains unemployed and underemployed young people to become primary vision care providers. Similar programs have been launched in Bangladesh and Kenya, where they are locally known as Eye Mitro and Eye Rafiki, respectively.

So far, these programs have benefited more than 200 million people. Essilor has said that it aims to create 25,000 primary vision care providers globally by 2020, up from a current level of 12,000. The company has repeatedly pointed out that uncorrected poor vision affects 2.5 billion people worldwide with an estimated economic and social impact of $272 billion per year.