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Commonwealth leaders make eye health commitments

Leaders from governments of the Commonwealth have announced programmes dedicated to improving the eye health of their citizens

Commonwealth leaders

Government leaders have committed to achieve access to eye care for all Commonwealth citizens at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London (16–20 April).

The heads of countries such as the UK, Pakistan and Botswana agreed to bring vision to ‘everyone, everywhere’ and tasked health ministers to discuss eye health more regularly with progress reports planned for future meetings.

Life-changing eye treatment

The UK Department for International Development announced £20m in new funding to protect people across the Commonwealth at risk of trachoma. 

CEO of Sightsavers, Dr Caroline Harper, said that the funding announcement from the UK Government was “hugely encouraging.” 

“The extra funding from UK aid will give a real boost to the effort to reach that goal in 10 countries across the Commonwealth,” she shared. 

Other commitments include the announcement from Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, of a national programme to eliminate preventable blindness.

In Botswana, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Basic Education reconfirmed their commitment to screen and treat every school child in the country for eye health by 2021.

Antigua and Barbuda also made a commitment to promoting eye health at a Commonwealth Global Citizen event (17 April). 

Lens manufacturer Essilor announced that it is expanding its programmes to meet the unmet need of 900 million people living with uncorrected refractive error.

The company will provide 200 million people living below the poverty line with free ophthalmic lenses, as well as improving the infrastructure of vision care. 

Essilor made the announcement at an event held by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (16 April). 

During the formal opening of the meeting, Her Majesty the Queen acknowledged the work of the trust. 

“The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is providing life-changing eye treatment to many thousands, through the generosity and cooperation of the nations represented here today,” the Queen said.

“The prize is in sight”

Eye health charities have applauded Commonwealth leaders for taking action with founder and chief executive of Peek Vision, Dr Andrew Bastawrous, calling it a "landmark moment" in achieving quality eye care for all. 

"By recognising the importance of eye health, the Commonwealth is leading the world in bringing better vision and health to everybody," he shared. 

"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," DR Bastawrous said. 
Founder of Clearly, James Chen, added: "The challenge now is two-fold – to work with Commonwealth leaders to help deliver this promise and convince other countries to follow their example. The prize is in sight."

Image credit: Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting