UN GA commits countries to eye care for 1.1B people with preventable sight loss by 2030
The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) Resolution Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals committing the international community to eye care for the 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss by 2030.
The Foundation has been advocating with members of the Friends of Vision group to raise the importance of eye health care for everyone around the world.
Vision loss is estimated to cost the global economy $411 billion ($AU 562bn) in productivity each year.
The resolution, which was co-sponsored by the Australian Government, is the first agreement to tackle avoidable blindness and vision loss to be adopted by the UN and enshrines eye health as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The resolution was passed unanimously by the 193 countries of the United Nations. It sets a target for vision for everyone by 2030, with countries set to ensure full access to eye care services for their populations, and to make eye health part of their nation’s journey to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The resolution creates new expectations for international financial institutions and donors to provide targeted finances, especially to support developing countries in tackling preventable sight loss. The resolution also calls for new targets on eye care to be included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at its next review.
Fred Hollows CEO Ian Wishart said the plan means that by 2030, the 1.1 billion people globally living with sight loss, should have access to support and treatment.
“This is an incredibly important day for everyone who agrees that no person should be needlessly blind or vision impaired. But we will only reach this goal if governments and international institutions act now to fulfil their new commitments,” Wishart said.
“Here in Australia, fewer than 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians needing cataract surgery get that surgery, while that number climbs to more than 87% for other Australians.
“Our efforts to have eye health recognised as a vital element of health and development continue the work that Fred started back in the 1980s arguing that every person should have the right to good eye care,” Wishard said.
H.E. Ambassador Aubrey Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, and founding co-chair of the United Nations Friends of Vision group said: “An eye test for a child can be the difference between inclusion and exclusion; a pair of prescription glasses, the difference between access to information and seeking a livelihood and not. The gift of sight for the 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss is within reach if we ensure world leaders deliver on this moment.”
Wishart said the resolution was also critical to addressing gender equity, given that women made up 55% of the world’s blind and vision impaired people.
“To meet the SDGs on gender equity we must acknowledge that a lack of access to eye care has a disproportionate impact on women and girls. This can have devastating consequences on girls’ education, the participation of women in the workforce, poverty, child marriage, and the role of women in safeguarding the health and education of their own children,” he said.
Peter Holland, CEO of The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, said: “The eye health sector has believed for a long time that quality eye care is critical to the world achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“We are delighted that the resolution was passed unanimously and would like to thank all the countries that co-sponsored the resolution, and especially the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Ireland and Bangladesh for their leadership on eye health at the United Nations and around the world.
“IAPB’s members are committed to supporting governments to implement this resolution and ensure that no one is left behind,” Holland said.