A commitment made by Heads of Commonwealth to take action towards achieving access to quality eye care for all, has been welcomed by Vision 2020 Australia CEO Carla Northam.
The commitment was made at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in London in April, which was attended by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Additionally, Commonwealth leaders committed to eliminating the blinding eye disease trachoma by 2020.
Prior to the meeting, Vision 2020 Australia together with 14 members and spearheaded by The Fred Hollows Foundation, called on Commonwealth leaders to eliminate avoidable blindness and help bring vision to everyone, everywhere.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, the group of leading eye health and vision care organisations called for avoidable blindness and poor vision to be included on the CHOGM agenda and for each country to take one significant action towards eliminating blindness by 2020.
“We are thrilled our voices have been heard. This is a win for protecting sight across the Commonwealth and ensuring avoidable blindness remains on the global agenda,” said Ms. Northam.
“A Commonwealth free of avoidable blindness and poor vision, where everyone has access to affordable treatment and quality eye care and where those with irreversible vision loss can reach their full potential, would transform the lives of millions of Australians and across the Commonwealth,” she said.
We welcome the leadership shown by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in committing to vision for all
Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, applauded the commitment by Commonwealth Leaders.
“Having good vision can transform lives, providing people with the chance to get an education, to work and to look after their families. We welcome the leadership shown by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in committing to vision for all,” said Mr. Wishart.
The CHOGM meeting also acknowledged the trachoma prevention work of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Trust, which was established in 2011 to combat avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth.
In 2015, there were 14 million people who were blind in the Commonwealth. An additional 70 million had poor vision affecting their ability to read and perform simple tasks such as threading a needle or driving a car. Simple, inexpensive solutions exist to prevent or treat many types of blindness.
Estimates suggest that if we do not act now, the number of people blind and with poor vision could treble by 2050. In Australia, more than 453,000 people are living with blindness and vision impairment, of which an estimated 90 per cent is preventable or treatable. Avoidable blindness and vision loss costs Australia an estimated AU$16 billion annually. The personal and social costs for families and communities affected is even greater.