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Government urged to do more to end blindness on World Sight Day

MEDIA RELEASE

The Fred Hollows Foundation today used the occasion of World Sight Day to highlight the critical contribution that Australian aid has made to ending avoidable blindness in our region. 

Despite Australian aid being vital to this sight-saving work, funding for avoidable blindness has been cut by the Federal Government. 

The Foundation’s Director of Public Affairs Nick Martin called on new Minister for International Development Steven Ciobo to reaffirm his commitment to ending avoidable blindness in our region and working with the eye-health sector to restore funding recently cut from the sector.

The Australian Government, between 2010 and 2014, has supported the screening of almost 840,000 people in the region in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and East Timor, providing almost 440,000 treatment services – including sight restoring surgery.

“Four out of five people who are blind right now in developing countries don’t have to be. They are blind because they live in poverty and cannot access medical care,” Mr Martin said. 

“We call on the Australian Government and Minister Ciobo to reaffirm their commitment to ending avoidable blindness, which was a bipartisan position adopted in 2007 by John Howard and Kevin Rudd.

"Australia has been a leader in blindness prevention since the time of Fred Hollows. In more recent times through the Australian Government's Avoidable Blindness Initiative, Australia has shown it can play a significant role in restoring sight to thousands in our region.

"The new Government has a real opportunity to make the fight against avoidable blindness a key plank of our aid program over the coming years. Australia could lead the way in changing the lives of millions."

Since its inception in 1992, The Foundation has restored sight to more than two million people, and we’re continuing to expand our work.

“Fred would be overjoyed that millions of Australians have been inspired to help continue his work. We can restore sight for as little as $25 in some countries,” Mr Martin said. 

“Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, in 2014 The Fred Hollows Foundation screened more people and delivered more sight-saving surgery than ever before. 

“The Fred Hollows Foundation is extraordinarily active. Working in more than 25 countries, we have a huge reach which is touching the lives of millions of people around the world.

“On World Sight Day we remind Australians that they can help restore sight to people in Australia and around the world.”

ENDS

Media Contact

Alison Hill, Global Lead Communications, The Fred Hollows Foundation, (02) 8344 1617, +61 407 570 640, alisonhill@hollows.org

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