Global blindness a key challenge to ending world poverty

More must be done to restore sight to 45 million people living with avoidable blindness, if a United Nations campaign to eradicate poverty in the next five years is to succeed, says The Foundation's CEO Brian Doolan.

Doolan was speaking to delegates at the 63rd Annual United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization Conference, in Melbourne.

“Blindness in the developing world is not overwhelmingly an issue of medicine – it is an issue of poverty, development, economics, geography, gender and human rights,” Doolan says.

“Fred Hollows used to say ‘I can think of no human condition that cannot be made worse by going avoidably blind’.

“The other side of that coin is of course this - there is no human condition that cannot be improved by preventing or curing avoiding blindness.”

>Find out more about Vision 2020: The right to sight.

The United Nations’ Millennium Campaign was launched in 2000. It includes eight Millennium Development Goals to end global poverty by 2015.

Doolan says evidence illustrates the close link between poverty and blindness.

“A growing body of research in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines shows the positive social and economic impacts of overcoming avoidable blindness,” he says.

“Blindness causes poverty, and overcoming avoid blindness allows an individual, their family and community to move out of extreme poverty.”

Doolan called on conference delegates to support global blindness consortium VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. The Foundation is a partner in VISION 2020, which exemplifies the Millennium Development Goal 8, for pursuing ‘Global Partnerships’.

“VISION 2020 unites governments, non-government organisations and eye care professionals to deliver sustainable blindness prevention programs,” Doolan says.

“It is the living embodiment of the Global Partnerships goal, which calls on richer countries to provide effective aid and debt relief and fair trade.

“Eight-two per cent of the world’s people living with disabilities, including blindness, exist below the poverty line. We can only achieve these Millennium Development Goals if we recognise and act on that reality.”
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