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The initiative’s backers point out that responding to the world’s vision crisis does not require the invention of new drugs or solving nettlesome issues like distributing refrigerated vaccines in countries with poor infrastructure. Factories in Thailand, China and the Philippines can manufacture so-called readers for less than 50 cents a pair; prescription glasses that correct nearsightedness can be produced for .50.
Money alone won’t easily solve systemic challenges faced by countries like Uganda, which has just 45 eye doctors for a nation of 41 million. In rural India, glasses are seen as a sign of infirmity, and in many places, a hindrance for young women seeking to get married. Until last year, Liberia did not have an eye clinic.