Countries at the World Health Assembly have agreed today to adopt a new resolution on vision in an effort to reach the 1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to vital eye care services.
More than 1 billion people are living with blindness or a vision impairment because they do not have access to basic services as simple as a pair of glasses.
The resolution cements the World Health Organization’s global strategy on vision set out in its ‘World Report on Vision’ launched last year.
The World Report on Vision highlighted that:
- More than 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, of whom at least 1 billion people do not have access to the services they need
- This is also an issue of fairness because the burden of poor eye health falls unequally on poorer countries and underserved populations including people in rural areas, for those with low incomes, women, older people, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations.
- Poor vision and eye health needs are expected to increase substantially in the coming decades, with the number of people living with blindness projected to triple by 2050
The World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution urges countries to implement the recommendations of the World Report on Vision. Sponsored by over 40 countries, the resolution asks all governments to integrate “people-centred eye care” within national health systems.
CBM is delighted that the World Health Assembly adopted the resolution on ‘integrated people-centred eye care’, one of the key recommendations in last year’s WHO World Report on Vision for addressing blindness and visual impairment in the years to come. The importance of the resolution cannot be overemphasized, as it not only commits WHO Member States to implementing the recommendations of the World Report on Vision, but also directs the WHO to provide guidance and technical support. CBM is fully committed to working towards the aims of the resolution, globally, regionally and with our partner countries.Dr M.Babar Qureshi (Director - Inclusive Eye Health and Neglected Tropical Diseases, CBM)
The resolution comes at a time when eye care services are beginning to resume after months of suspension due to COVID-19.
Peter Holland, Chief Executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), the peak body for eye health organisations worldwide, said “COVID-19 has posed significant challenges for eye health and the sector is currently facing a significant backlog of patients. It is therefore critical that eye health is properly integrated within health systems in order to address the challenges ahead and to avoid irreversible progression of eye diseases”. More than ever we now must strengthen intersectoral collaboration to address global challenges. Access to clean water for example, is not only relevant to fight the pandemic, but also to reduce the spread of neglected tropical diseases such as trachoma.
Welcoming the resolution, some of the biggest eye health organisations in the world (Sightsavers, Fred Hollows, CBM and Light for the World) said “The vast majority of people with vision impairment live in low- and middle-income countries, who often lack the resources and strategies to address eye health conditions. The WHO’s increased support will mean that those countries will be better able to deal with the rapidly increasing need for eye care services”.