Sightsavers has joined forces with other eye health organisations, charities and campaign groups to call for avoidable blindness and poor vision to be included in the agenda of next April’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the UK.
In 2015, there were 14 million people blind people in the Commonwealth. A further 70 million had medium to severe visual impairment, while 1.1 billion people globally had near-vision impairment, affecting their ability to read and perform tasks such as threading a needle.
The Commonwealth has taken a lead in addressing avoidable blindness, and progress has accelerated in the past five years. But campaigners believe more needs to be done. Over the next six months, Sightsavers, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, the Fred Hollows Foundation, Peek Vision, Clearly and the International Coalition for Trachoma Control will work to raise awareness of this issue among governments, advocates, service providers and supporters as part of the Vision for the Commonwealth campaign.
Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said: ‘’This issue is relevant to every Commonwealth country without exception. Good vision transforms lives: it can help reduce poverty, and deliver quality education, decent work and gender equality. We must act now to ensure that no one in the Commonwealth need suffer from blindness or poor vision when it can easily be prevented or corrected.”
Globally, three out of four people who are blind do not need to be, while 90 per cent of people with poor vision could be helped with a pair of glasses. Estimates suggest that the number of people blind and with poor vision could treble by 2050. Yet simple, inexpensive solutions exist to prevent or treat many types of blindness or poor vision.
Andrew Griffiths, Head of Advocacy at Sightsavers, said: “The Commonwealth is a key actor in helping us achieve our vision of a world where no one is blind from avoidable causes and where people with disabilities participate equally in society. Partnerships between governments and members of the Vision for the Commonwealth campaign will be central to the delivering this.”