A visionary new Global Action Plan adopted at the World Health Assembly in Geneva last week is good news for people living with avoidable blindness and vision loss around the world.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck welcomed the plan which aimed to reduce blindness and vision impairment by 25 per cent by 2019.
“This is a significant milestone for global eye health which will impact tens of thousands of people who are blind or vision impaired,” Ms Gersbeck said.
“There is an estimated 228 million people around the world who are blind or vision impaired. We know that 80 per cent of blindness and vision impairment is preventable or treatable. This plan will go a long way to help restore the sight of some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” she said.
Ms Gersbeck said Australia had been instrumental in the development of the plan and congratulated all those who had helped to make the plan a reality.
“Many countries, including Australia, have worked hard to develop a plan which is both ambitious and achievable,” she said.
“Australia’s commitment to improving global eye health is unwavering and I am proud of our ongoing contribution to the elimination of avoidable blindness,” she said.
Australia’s involvement in the plan was acknowledged at the World Health Assembly and its recent funding commitment in the Federal Budget. Nearly $40 million has been committed to conduct 100,000 sight-restoring vision screenings and 10,000 sight-restoring surgeries in Asia and the Pacific.
In the past three years, the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium made up of eight leading Australian NGOs has been responsible for improving the lives of tens of thousands of poor and disadvantaged people in Asia and the Pacific.
Since it began, more than 649,000 people have received eye health screenings or consultations; over 123,000 eye surgeries have been performed; over 21,300 people have received spectacles, training has extended to more than 13,800 health professionals and over 70 eye care facilities have been built or upgraded.
Ms Gersbeck said the cornerstone of the new global action plan would be improving access to comprehensive eye care services that are integrated into health systems. In addition, the plan addresses the need for generalising evidence on the magnitude and causes of blindness and vision impairment and promotes multi-sectoral engagement and effective partnerships to strengthen eye health.
Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020