The establishment of a $1bn Vision Catalyst Fund designed to bring eye care to people around the world was confirmed on Monday (12 March).
The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is joining forces with public and private sector organisations that specialise in eye health to develop the fund over the next two years.
Once operational, the fund will look to “accelerate systems of change and expand universal eye health services led by governments to provide sustainable and efficient long-term solutions for eye health to entire populations in Commonwealth countries and across the globe,” the Trust explained.
The Trust reported that 85 million people in the Commonwealth are blind or visual impaired, while globally 2.5 billion people do not have access to spectacles.
Speaking about the fund, chief executive of the Trust, Dr Astrid Bonfield said: “I am delighted that a diverse range of partners are coming together to help develop and progress this exciting and ambitious initiative with the potential to create new approaches to funding eye health.”
He acknowledged that the organisations had “a big job” ahead of them in terms of shaping the fund, attracting investors and ensuring collaboration with governments.
“But we have the solutions for universal eye health. We know they work. We now have an historic opportunity to work in partnership and create a fund that can bring sight to entire populations across the Commonwealth and the world,” he added.
Charity Clearly was announced as the fund’s first investor, having committed $10 million dollars.
Founder of Clearly, James Chen, said: “The issue of poor vision is unique in terms of the number of people affected, the simplicity of the solution which in most cases is a pair of glasses, and high returns for both improving people’s lives and the local economy. I am prepared to meet anyone who is interested in matching my contribution and discuss why this issue can no longer be forgotten.”
Commenting on the announcement of the fund during a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, CEO of Peek Vision, Dr Andrew Bastawrous said: “For the first time in human history, it is within our power to eliminate avoidable blindness and poor vision, for everybody, everywhere. Every country in the Commonwealth has the opportunity to transform their citizens’ eye health, in a matter of years, not generations.
He highlighted that: “By working together, we can make that future better for millions of citizens across the Commonwealth, and across the world.”
Image credit: Peek Vision