Globally, approximately 223.4 million people are blind or vision impaired — with 73 per cent of moderate to severe vision impairment and 58 per cent of blindness occurring in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions. 80 percent of this blindness is preventable or treatable, and reducing this number has a central role to play in reducing global poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Vision 2020 Australia is committed to addressing this key challenge to global public health and development. The focus is raising awareness about the impact of blindness and vision impairment in developing countries, and ensuring that blindness prevention remains high on the agendas of the Australian Government and other stakeholders.
In collaboration with our members, we engage in a variety of public policy processes, speak at conferences and other forums, and lobby key parliamentarians and government officials to ensure that the prevention of avoidable blindness is high on their agenda. We have been invited to appear as witnesses at government inquiries, and have published articles in leading newspapers, magazines and journals. Recently Vision 2020 Australia provided a policy proposal to the Australian Government and asked for a five year funding commitment for the Pacific ($45.3 million) and countries in Asia ($122.5 million). This funding would be used to increase efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness and increase the participation of people with permanent blindness and vision loss.
Vision 2020 Australia engages with international eye health stakeholders to contribute to overall global efforts to achieve the objectives of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. We are represented on the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ Advocacy and Public Relations Committee, and have helped facilitate planning workshops across Asia and the Pacific to enhance collaboration among eye health stakeholders and governments.
The Global Committee was formed to facilitate collaboration among member organisations that are committed to eliminating avoidable blindness and reducing the impact of vision loss in developing countries. Australia is leading the way with expertise in the area of blindness prevention and rehabilitation, and the Global Committee brings this expertise together to ensure that the sector speaks with one strong voice.
Recently, the Global Committee came together to develop a Vision 2020 Australia Regional Strategy to set the direction of the sectors work to 2019. The Strategy aligns with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Action Plan, sharing its principles of universal access and equity, human rights, evidence based practice, life course approach, and empowerment of people with blindness and vision impairment. Alignment with the WHO Action Plan will maximise effectiveness and collaboration between the two bodies.
As 18 of Australia’s closest neighbours are developing countries, and with over half of people living with vision impairment and blindness living in developing countries, the challenge is very large and close to home. However, Australia is well placed to help eliminate avoidable blindness and vision impairment, and provide inclusive development for those whose vision impairment is untreatable. The benefits of tackling these issues will make improvements that will benefit Australia, our region, and the world.
- $45 million commitment by the Australian Government in 2008 to an Avoidable Blindness Initiative in Asia and the Pacific. This allocation was based on the first phase of a 10 year Regional Plan: A Plan to Eliminate Avoidable Blindness and Vision Impairment in our Region 2008, developed by Vision 2020 Australia, which showed how avoidable blindness and vision impairment could be eliminated in Australia’s region, with $15 million to be implemented by the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium
- Secured funding for a World Health Organisation Western Pacific Region blindness prevention position in 2010
- Secured the inclusion of blindness prevention as one of the eight key future challenges facing Australia’s aid program in the Australian Labor Party's pre-election Aid Policy Statement in 2010
- Further commitment of $21.3 million by the Australian Government over four years for blindness prevention activities in the 2011-12 Federal Budget, with $10 million to be implemented by the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium in East Asia
- Further commitment of $39 million by the Australian Government over four years in the 2013-14 Federal Budget to tackle avoidable blindness in Asia and the Pacific.
Vision 2020 Australia acknowledges funding from CBM Australia for global advocacy.
 World Health Organisation, Prevention of Blindness and Deafness Programme (WHO PBD) Global Data on Visual Impairments, April 2012; and Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, GBD Study 2010.
 Pascolini D, Mariotti SPM. Global estimates of visual impairment: 2010. British Journal Ophthalmology Online First published December 1, 2011