Leading eye health charities and campaigners today applauded Commonwealth leaders for committing to take action towards achieving access to quality eye care for all Commonwealth citizens.
Blindness and poor eyesight are a growing problem which affects millions of people across every Commonwealth country. At their Heads of Government meeting in the United Kingdom (CHOGM), Commonwealth leaders therefore agreed for the first time to take action to ensure all citizens have access to quality eye care. Leaders also tasked Commonwealth Health Ministers with discussing eye health regularly and asked that progress achieved towards bringing vision to all citizens is reported at future CHOGMs.
In what is a landmark moment in the movement to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to quality eye care, organisations who have been working under the banner “Vision for the Commonwealth” to raise awareness of the growing issue of avoidable blindness and poor vision and unite Governments, advocates, service providers and supporters to take action, congratulated Commonwealth leaders for taking the lead in bringing quality eye care to all those who need it.
Ian Wishart, Chief Executive of the Fred Hollows Foundation says:
“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.”
Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said:
“We are delighted that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to take further action to bring quality eye care to all. There are 85 million people in the Commonwealth today who are blind or have very poor vision as a result of causes that can be entirely avoided or prevented. Millions more just need access to a pair of glasses. Simple and inexpensive, tried and tested solutions exist to prevent or treat many types of blindness or poor vision. The Trust has been working with Commonwealth nations since 2014 to implement these solutions and help end avoidable blindness and poor vision. The leadership and commitment shown this week at CHOGM are a very important step towards our goal and one that will help ensure that all people in the Commonwealth have access to eyecare.”
Dr Caroline Harper CBE, CEO of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (commonly known as Sightsavers) said:
“It is hugely encouraging that Commonwealth leaders have committed to take action towards achieving quality eye care for all in their countries. It is especially welcome that they have singled out the aim of eliminating blinding trachoma by 2020. The extra funding from UK aid, announced earlier in the week, will give a real boost to the effort to reach that goal in 10 countries across the Commonwealth.”
Dr Andrew Bastawrous, Founder and Chief Executive of Peek Vision says:
"This is a landmark moment for millions of people across the Commonwealth. By recognising the importance of eye health, the Commonwealth is leading the world in bringing better vision and health to everybody. But this is just the beginning - we now need to ensure that governments are supported to move towards universal eye health, so that in 2020 we can see real progress towards bringing vision to the Commonwealth and the world."
James Chen, Founder of Clearly says:
"This is a historic day and a turning point in helping the world see clearly. The Commonwealth has become the first international forum to tackle the world's largest unaddressed disability by committing to 'quality eye care for all'. It has shown real leadership. The challenge now is twofold - to work with Commonwealth leaders to help deliver this promise and convince other countries to follow their example. The prize is in sight.”
Professor Serge Resnikoff, Chairman of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) said:
“ICTC celebrates Commonwealth leadership to tackle avoidable blindness to achieve a more sustainable, fairer and prosperous future for all Commonwealth citizens. This landmark moment provides a powerful opportunity to leverage the critical successes already underway in the vision space, and the significant progress being made towards the elimination of trachoma by 2020.”