Commonwealth Governments Pledge Support of Sweeping Vision Care Initiative

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UK prime minister Theresa May, surrounded by leaders of other Commonwealth nations.
LONDON—Leading eye health charities and campaigners last week applauded Commonwealth leaders for committing to take action toward achieving access to quality eyecare for all Commonwealth citizens. At their Heads of Government meeting in the United Kingdom (CHOGM), Commonwealth leaders agreed for the first time to take action to ensure all citizens have access to quality eyecare. Leaders also tasked Commonwealth Health Ministers with discussing eye health regularly and asked that progress achieved toward bringing vision to all citizens is reported at future CHOGMs.

Organizations that 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 eyecare to all those who need it.

“We are delighted that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to take further action to bring quality eyecare to all,” said Dr. Astrid Bonfield CBE, chief executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. “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 toward our goal and one that will help ensure that all people in the Commonwealth have access to eyecare,” Bonfield said.

James Chen, founder of Clearly, remarked, "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 eyecare 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.”

VM reported in March that Cleary has committed $10 million to support the Commonwealth’s Vision Catalyst Fund.

Earlier this month, VM reported that Essilor pledged to provide eyeglass lenses to 200 million people in the Commonwealth who are living below the poverty line, while continuing to increase the number of eyecare providers there and improve access to them. Comprising 53 countries, the Commonwealth has a population of 2.4 billion.

Other companies and organizations supporting the fund include Standard Chartered, UBS, Peek Vision, EYElliance, Sightsavers, the Fred Hollows Foundation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.