International Day of Persons with Disabilities

As the world celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities today, Vision 2020 Australia commends the Australian Government for its initial achievements overseas to improve the lives of people living with a disability. Released today, the Government’s report Disability Strategy for Australia’s aid program—two years on shows the early results of programs being undertaken by AusAID’s disability strategy, including those of Vision 2020 Australia’s members.

Substantial funds are still required to eliminate avoidable blindness in the Asia Pacific region. Jennifer Gersbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for the eye health and vision care sector in Australia, said: 'Initial results of the Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI) have been excellent and we are transforming the lives of millions of people in the South East Asia and Western Pacific regions. The inclusion of avoidable blindness as one of seven key future challenges in the Government’s pre-election aid policy statement was a significant step, but more is now needed.

An additional $200 million in the 2011 federal budget for a second phase of the ABI, will continue Australia’s leadership role and ensure the elimination of avoidable blindness in the Asia Pacific region'.

'Tackling avoidable blindness is a vital element of poverty reduction efforts and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Giving people eyesight is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to break the poverty cycle and give people a chance towards self-determination. With good eyesight, children can go to school and adults can work', she continued.

About the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium

In partnership with AusAID, Vision 2020 Australia's Global Consortium is working to eliminate avoidable blindness in the Asia Pacific region. The Global Consortium consists of Vision 2020 Australia and nine leading agencies from across the sector.

With funding from AusAID's $45 million Avoidable Blindness Initiative, the Global Consortium is tackling avoidable blindness on a number of fronts including:

  • training eye nurses and eye doctors
  • strengthening eye health infrastructure (construction, renovation and provision of equipment)
  • supporting blindness prevention committees
  • raising awareness of eye health and sight restoring surgeries.

Vision impairment is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, and by tackling avoidable blindness more people will be able to return to work and contribute to their families and communities. For example, approximately 90 per cent of vision impaired children in the Asia Pacific region are deprived of the opportunity to attend school. Efforts to eliminate vision impairment in children are central to achieving the second Millennium Development Goal—achieving universal primary education.

The Global Consortium is working in seven countries across the Asia Pacific region to eliminate avoidable blindness. In the first six months of program implementation, the lives of thousands have been transformed, particularly in Cambodia and Vietnam where the majority of Consortium funds have been allocated.

  • 1,600 surgeries have restored sight in Cambodia
  • 900 surgeries have restored sight in Vietnam
  • 8,700 school children have had their vision screened in Cambodia
  • 2,500 spectacles have been provided in Cambodia
  • 90 community health workers across three provinces have received primary eye care training in Cambodia
  • 273 community health staff have received training in basic eye care in Vietnam
  • 160 refractionists have been equipped to diagnose and treat refractive error in Vietnam.

For more information contact Sam Byfield at Vision 2020 Australia on sbyfield@vision2020australia or 03 9656 2010.