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Commonwealth leaders commit to eye care for all

MEDIA RELEASE

Heads of Commonwealth have committed to take action towards achieving access to quality eye care for all, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in London on 19 to 20 April.

At the biennial CHOGM meeting, attended by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Commonwealth leaders further committed to eliminating the blinding eye disease trachoma by 2020.

Prior to the meeting, Vision 2020 Australia together with 14 members and spearheaded by The Fred Hollows Foundation, called on Commonwealth leaders to eliminate avoidable blindness and help bring vision to everyone, everywhere.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, the group of leading eye health and vision care organisations called for avoidable blindness and poor vision to be included on the CHOGM agenda and for each country to take one significant action towards eliminating blindness by 2020.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Carla Northam, says: ‘We are thrilled our voices have been heard. This is a win for protecting sight across the Commonwealth and ensuring avoidable blindness remains on the global agenda.’

‘A Commonwealth free of avoidable blindness and poor vision, where everyone has access to affordable treatment and quality eye care and where those with irreversible vision loss can reach their full potential, would transform the lives of millions of Australians and across the Commonwealth,’ says Ms Northam.

Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, applauded the commitment by Commonwealth Leaders.

‘Having good vision can transform lives, providing people with the chance to get an education, to work and to look after their families. We welcome the leadership shown by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in committing to vision for all,’ said Mr Wishart.

The CHOGM meeting also acknowledged the trachoma prevention work of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Trust which was established in 2011 to combat avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth.

In 2015, there were 14 million people who were blind in the Commonwealth. An additional 70 million had poor vision affecting their ability to read and perform simple tasks such as threading a needle or driving a car. Yet simple, inexpensive solutions exist to prevent or treat many types of blindness.

Estimates suggest that if we do not act now, the number of people blind and with poor vision could treble by 2050.

In Australia, more than 453,000 people are living with blindness and vision impairment, of which an estimated 90 per cent is preventable or treatable. Avoidable blindness and vision loss costs Australia an estimated $16 billion annually. The personal and social costs for families and communities affected is even greater.

Vision 2020 Australia commends the Australian Government for being a major force in the global fight to prevent avoidable blindness through consistent support for World Health Assembly resolutions, population wide universal health coverage for eye health and significant investment in eliminating avoidable blindness across the Indo-Pacific region.

The Australian Government has also committed to eliminating trachoma by 2020 and is a signatory to the World Health Organization Alliance for Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020.

With Australia’s continued leadership, the Commonwealth can lead the way in responding to these persistent challenges and ensure quality eye care for all.

 

ENDS

 

For more information:

Rosie Walden at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020 or rwalden@vision2020australia.org.au

Amy Johnston at Vision 2020 Australia
03 9656 2020 or ajohnston@vision2020australia.org.au

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents around 50 member organisations involved in local and global eye care, health promotion, low vision support, vision rehabilitation, eye research, professional assistance, and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

For more information visit: www.vision2020australia.org.au

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