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Eye health programs worthy of aid funding

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The Australian Government today released the report into the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness. The Aid Review is the first of its kind in the past 15 years and highlights the aid program’s focus on delivering tangible, cost effective results for the world’s poorest people. One of the Review’s key recommendations is that ‘flagships’ be identified to shape the future directions of Australia’s aid program. Jennifer Gersbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Vision 2020 Australia, applauds this recommendation and puts forward eye health programs as worthy of being identified as a future ‘flagship’, given the success to date.

“Aid programs that aim to improve eye health and reduce avoidable blindness are among the most effective programs being funded by Australia’s aid program – in terms of their cost, sustainable outcomes, and flow on effects to individuals and their communities by helping to reduce poverty, hunger and inequality.

“The Aid Review states that flagships will be need to prove that they have comparative advantage, that there is a great need for the intervention or program, and what prospects there are for success. Tackling vision impairment clearly satisfies these criteria,” Ms Gersbeck continued.

There are 285 million blind and vision impaired people in the world, and over half of them live in Australia’s region. “Tackling avoidable blindness is a key step in efforts to eliminate poverty and is central to Australia’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” Ms Gersbeck explains.

“Restoring sight transforms lives, and is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to break the poverty cycle. With good eyesight, children can go to school, and adults can work, contribute to their communities and care for their families.”

The Aid Review also focuses on the need for more partnerships in the delivery of Australia’s aid program. This is one area where Australia’s efforts to restore sight are already world leading. Under the Avoidable Blindness Initiative, a series of activities is currently being implemented across the Asia Pacific region by Vision 2020 Australia’s Global Consortium - a partnership of leading eye health and vision care organisations.

The Consortium’s first year of program implementation has provided an important demonstration of tangible, cost effective international development assistance and the value of working in partnership. Thousands of lives have already been changed by the project’s multifaceted approach to improving eye care through operations, training, outreach to remote areas and the development of eye health infrastructure.

Ms Gersbeck also applauded the bipartisan commitment to increasing Australia’s aid program to 0.5 percent of Gross National Income by 2015-16. ‘Australia has a unique opportunity to help end global poverty. And it’s very firmly in our national interests to do so’.

ENDS

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