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BASELNEWS 2011OMEGA and Daniel Craig team up to support ORBIS’ mission

OMEGA will work in cooperation with actor and brand ambassador Daniel Craig to support ORBIS International’s flying hospital in its fight against preventable blindness. Daniel Craig is making plans to join ORBIS on some of its flights in 2011.

The OMEGA Hour Vision Blue is more than an outstanding wristwatch. It is also a tool created to help ORBIS International in its fight against the global problem of preventable blindness. There has never been a more fashionable way to participate in ORBIS’ mission to extend quality eye care to people all over the world.

A few questions to the chairman of ORBIS, Dr Robert Walters

TW: Do you think that creative partnerships between corporations and charitable organizations – like the one between OMEGA and ORBIS – will be a trend in the future?

Dr Robert Walters: Creative partnerships between corporations and charitable organizations are gaining in popularity as a way to promote social causes that align with corporate social responsibility strategies.  Many companies now believe being a good global corporate citizen is as important as the products they make.

TW: When ORBIS International chooses to deliver its eye care services in a new country, who do you negotiate with locally? Governments, NGO's, local hospitals?

Dr Robert Walters: Our work is only made possible by working collaboratively. Our partners range from local hospitals, universities, research and training centers, to non-governmental organizations and Ministries of Health. Our goal is to provide the tools, training, and technology necessary for our local partners to assess their needs and develop lasting solutions to the tragedy of unnecessary blindness.  By building long-term capabilities, ORBIS enables its partner institutions to take action – to reach a state where they can provide, on their own, quality eye care services that are affordable, accessible and sustainable.

By working with our local partners, ORBIS is able to address all levels of blindness prevention work, from specialized training of medical staff, treatment and cures to rural areas where the population is most vulnerable.

TW: Daniel Craig is lending his support to ORBIS in cooperation with OMEGA. Has the organization used high-profile individuals in its communications efforts before? What effect do you hope Daniel Craig's participation will have on ORBIS?

Dr Robert Walters: ORBIS has used high profile individuals previously; however, this new relationship with Daniel and OMEGA will surpass any of our previous marketing and communications efforts.  Daniel and OMEGA will help raise awareness of the high level of preventable blindness, which unfortunately does not draw much attention in the media.  Over 39 million people are needlessly blind worldwide – stunningly, a child goes blind every five minutes.  With a celebrity ambassador of Daniel’s stature, we are confident that the ORBIS mission will be embraced by the international community, enabling us to restore sight to many more who otherwise would not have access to quality eye care.

TW: Since ORBIS introduced its Flying Eye Hospital in 1982, are there countries where the amount of preventable blindness has been reduced to the point that you can say, "In this place, we are winning the fight."? 

Dr Robert Walters: The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released new encouraging data which indicates a reduction in  global blindness and visual impairment. 39 million remain blind (down from 45 million in 2000) and 246 million have significant visual impairment (down from 314 million in 2000). Up to 80% of the world’s blindness is avoidable, meaning blindness which could be either treated or prevented by known, cost-effective means. We concentrate on the main causes of avoidable blindness to ensure the greatest possible impact on vision loss worldwide.

For the first time we have a clear indication of the downward trend in the absolute number of visually impaired people in the world. Of course we are not alone in this effort, as this success is attributable to the efforts of many governments and international agencies involved in VISION 2020: The Right to Sight - the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness by the year 2020 which ORBIS is a founding member.
The challenges remain real but with proven accomplishment and a new sense of urgency we will not stop until no one is needlessly blind.

TW: A look at your schedule shows that you are a tireless campaigner on behalf of ORBIS. In your capacity as an ophthalmologist, you have participated in ORBIS's projects all over the world. You are a well-known member of your profession. When you have time to escape and relax, what do you do?

Dr Robert Walters: When I need to unwind from my international travels for ORBIS, I enjoy sailing, playing bridge and piloting small aircraft.  I enjoy staying active, both mentally and physically, as I find it refreshes me for the challenges we face in working to eliminate preventable blindness.

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