Australia’s foreign aid budget needs vision


Australia’s foreign aid investment in eye health and vision care is vital to lifting our region’s most vulnerable people out of poverty and must be a focus of this year’s Federal Budget.

Globally, of the 223 million people who are blind or vision impaired, 90 per cent are living in developing countries with two-thirds located in the Asia-Pacific region.

Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘Where the Australian Government has supported eye health and vision care, significant gains have been made towards eliminating avoidable vision loss and blindness.

‘Funding eye health and vision care programs has immediate, tangible results. Globally, there is a return of $4 for every $1 invested in eye health and vision care.

‘This potential to make a positive difference in our region, with flow-on benefits to Australia, cannot be realised if foreign aid funding remains stagnant or faces further cuts.’

Gerhard Schlenther, Chair of Vision 2020 Australia’s Global Committee and General Manager Policy and Programs at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, says barriers to access eye health and vision care can drive already poor people further into poverty.

‘Vision impairment is both a cause and consequence of poverty,’ Mr Schlenther says.

‘There are direct links between vision impairment and lack of access to basic needs, as well as to employment and education opportunities.

‘People in low-income countries living with disability are more likely to experience discrimination, and women with disability suffer even greater exclusion and marginalisation.’

Eye health and vision care are an integral part of foreign aid, and Vision 2020 Australia is calling for the government to rebuild the foreign aid budget, which is now at a historic low of 0.23 per cent of gross national income.

Ms Northam says: ‘The Australian government must boost foreign aid spending to ensure our country’s contribution reaches the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2030.

‘Along with the humanitarian imperative, lifting people out of poverty fosters peace and sustainable local economies, protects Australia from regional conflicts and lowers the threat of other regional issues such as health pandemics.

'We’re calling on the Australian Government to recognise foreign aid as a crucial part of foreign policy, worthy of the legitimacy and budgetary provisions given to diplomacy, trade and security.’

See our full 2017-18 Federal Budget analysis


For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020, 0401 096 507 or

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents over 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 (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).