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IAPB was established as a coordinating, umbrella organisation to lead an international effort in mobilising resources for blindness prevention activities. IAPB aspired to link professional bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions and interested individuals with national programmes for the prevention of blindness.

Prevention of blindness milestones: 2000 to 2013

Select the following tabs for a brief review of milestones in the global programme for the prevention of blindness – initially compiled by Terrence Gillen.

The 66th World Health Assembly unanimously approves ‘Universal Eye Health: A Global Action Plan 2014-2019‘. The plan, building upon and replacing previous VISION 2020 and 2009 – 2013 Action Plans, committed governments to a 25% reduction in the prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by the year 2019 from the baseline of 2010.

The 9th General Assembly in Hyderabad attracts around 1600 registered delegates from 86 countries, doubling the numbers of previous assemblies.

The Assembly culminates with the endorsement by acclamation of the ‘Hyderabad Declaration’, calling on international organisations, regional entities, governments, civil society and the private sector to work together to ensure that blindness and visual impairment are adequately and comprehensively addressed within an inclusive international development framework and as part of primary health care and health systems.

Mr. Bob McMullan, former Minister of the Australian Government, is elected as the new IAPB President.

IAPB 2010 report launched to mark the halfway point of the goals of VISION 2020. The report comes just before new WHO preliminary estimates released after publication indicate that visual impairment prevalence has been reduced from 314 million people in 2004, to 285.3 million today. Of these, 39.8 million people are estimated to be blind worldwide.

The 2009-2013 Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment is endorsed by the 62nd World Health Assembly.

The Eighth General Assembly of the IAPB is held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the theme, “Excellence and Equity in Eye Care”. The Assembly sees a participation of 800 participants from 60 countries; the largest attendance of any previous assembly.

Prevention of Blindness included in WHO strategic plan and objectives.

Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness Action Plan 2006-2011 is released by the WHO. The Durban Declaration on Refractive Error announced at the first World Congress on Refractive Error and Service Development.

A new resolution is adopted at the 59th World Health Assembly to further support prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment globally (WHA resolution 59.25 ‘Prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment’).

The Seventh General Assembly is held in collaboration with the World Health Organization in Dubai, UAE, from September 20 to 24, 2004. Nearly 600 delegates from some 75 countries participate in scientific presentations, courses and attend plenary sessions that reflected the theme “Partnership”.

The WHO releases new data on the prevalence of global blindness on December 16th, 2004. According to the new figures, in 2002, 161 million people were visually impaired, of whom 124 million people had low vision and 37 million were blind.

In May 2003, the WHO Resolution on Elimination of Avoidable Blindness was adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly, which calls on all member states to commit themselves to VISION 2020 plans by 2005.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization, launches ‘The State of World Blindness’ report on World Sight Day in Geneva. The report looks at issues surrounding blindness, cost of global blindness and highlight the achievements and future goals of VISION 2020.

The first Joint Meeting of the VISION 2020 Task Force and IAPB Executive Committee, together with the WHO PBD, chaired by the President of IAPB.

Lions Club International Foundation integrates “World Sight Day” – an event launched as a part of their Sight First campaign – with VISION 2020. The task Force is also integrated into the IAPB structure in the last quarter of the year. From then on, a joint meeting of the Executive Committee and the Task Force is conducted every year. The President of IAPB chairs these meetings.

Prevention of blindness milestones: 1980 to 1999

VISION 2020:The Right to Sight – the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness by the year 2020 was formally launched from W.H.O. Headquarters, Geneva on February 18th, 1999.

The Sixth General Assembly of IAPB was held in Beijing, P.R. China, between September 5 – 10, 1999. About 600 participants, from 57 countries attended the Assembly and included medical, technical, managerial and community health professionals involved in the field of eye care.

The Fifth Assembly was held in Berlin, Germany from May 8 – 13. The three main issues of primary health care were addressed by the theme of the meeting “Towards Affordable, Accessible, Appropriate Eye Care”.

A Regional Advisor for Prevention of Blindness is established in the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.

The Fourth General Assembly of the IAPB is held in Nairobi, Kenya, and is attended by more than 400 ophthalmologists, public health workers, and managers. National prevention of blindness committees from 60 countries are represented by 113 people at the Business Meeting.

IAPB hosts a four-day series of conferences in Bethesda, Maryland, at which 70 people from more than 20 countries participate. IAPB commemorates the tenth anniversary of the WHO Prevention of Blindness Program and with major NGOs holds a symposium on the control of cataract blindness.

WHO Task Force completes a second comprehensive compilation and analysis of blindness data, and estimates that there are between 27 and 35 million blind people in the world.

The Consultative Group of NGOs to the WHO Program for the Prevention of Blindness is established to provide a forum for closer consultation among organizations interested in prevention of blindness.

The Third General Assembly of the IAPB is held in New Delhi, India. This Assembly is attended by over 400 ophthalmologists, eye-care professionals, public health specialists, managers, and others engaged in the battle against unnecessary blindness.

The International Eye Foundation becomes the first international eye-care NCO to be accepted into official relations with WHO.

Organisation pour la Prevention de la Cecite (OPC) is founded in France.

The Second General Assembly of the IAPB is held in Bethesda. This meeting of 300 people representing more than 50 countries is by far the largest international gathering of experts on blindness prevention ever convened to that time.

Seva Service Society is founded in Canada to encourage broader participation by Canadian citizens in Seva’s blindness prevention and other activities.

An international conference at Leeds Castle, England, formulates global strategies for the prevention of disability leading to the formulation by three United Nations agencies of the International Initiative Against Avoidable Disablement, now known as the IMPACT program.

First nationwide probability sample-based survey of blindness is carried out in Nepal. This survey forms the basis for the first five-year plan for the Nepal Blindness Program.

Prevention of blindness milestones: 1882 to 1979

WHO Director-General establishes a WHO Program Advisory Group (PAG) on the prevention of blindness. Subsequent PAG meetings successfully evaluate progress made in the Program and coordinate work with the collaborating NGOs.

Foresight (Australian Overseas Aid and Prevention of Blindness, Ltd.) is founded in Australia.

WHO Task Force meets in Bethesda, Maryland.

WHO Programme for the Prevention of Blindness is officially established in Geneva.

Seva Foundation is founded in the United States to apply lessons learned through smallpox eradication to alleviate suffering due to other public health problems. Blindness prevention in Nepal is adopted as primary focus of program activity.

The First General Assembly of the IAPB is held in Oxford, United Kingdom, where 170 representatives from 44 nations convene for a three-day conference.

WHO inter-regional meeting in Baghdad stimulates worldwide interest in the control of major causes of blindness. This largest gathering of experts on the prevention of blindness ever assembled up to that time establishes strategies for manpower requirements and the development of eye-health services.

The National Programme for the Control of Blindness is launched in India – the first-ever comprehensive nationwide program for the prevention and control of blindness, and a forerunner of similar developments around the world.

The World Health Assembly adopts a resolution requesting the Director-General to take action against the problem of blindness and to establish initiatives against trachoma, xerophthalmia, cataract, onchocerciasis, ocular trauma, and glaucoma. This resolution was to be the basis for the establishment of the WHO Program for the Prevention of Blindness in 1978.

With the encouragement of WHO, the Association is transformed into the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) on January 1. The IAPB’s charge is to lead a cooperative universal offensive to reduce drastically the world’s avoidable blindness by controlling major blinding diseases.

At ICO meeting in Paris, changes to broaden the base of the Association are considered. WHO indicates the need for a single international agency uniting the many groups working in the prevention of blindness field. After consultations between leaders of the Association and the WCWB, a plan to restructure the organization is developed to make it more effective in global blindness prevention.

Following a request from the World Health Assembly, WHO carries out a systematic inventory of available data on blindness and reports that there are between 10 and 15 million blind people in the world.

A Study Group on the Prevention of Blindness is convened to assess the magnitude of the problem and elaborate upon the definitions of visual impairment and blindness (that are used internationally to this day).

Although reporting of results is confused by different definitions of blindness and its causes, it is increasingly clear that besides trachoma there are several important blinding diseases commonly found in developing countries.

First meeting of Joint Committee in Geneva.

Adoption of an international system for classifying causes of blindness. This system is recommended for use worldwide by the Association and is subsequently published in the Journal of Social Ophthalmology and is widely distributed.

Operation Eyesight Universal is founded in Canada.

The International Eye Foundation is founded in the United States by John Harry King, Jr., M.D., whose primary purpose is teaching with a mandate of the prevention and cure of blindness worldwide.

Christoffel-Blindenmission’s services are extended to include ophthalmological work, particularly curing and preventing blindness.

The Association begins scheduling its General Assemblies to coincide with meetings of the newly formed European Congress of Ophthalmology. Sir Stuart Duke-Elder and Sir John Wilson propose cooperation between ophthalmologists and blind welfare workers.

The Association agrees to work with WHO on a World Health Day for the prevention of blindness, scheduled for April 7, 1962.

WHO convenes an Expert Committee on Trachoma. Subsequent meetings are held in 1955 and 1961, and a Scientific Group meets in 1965

From 1952 through 1956 two teams, one ophthalmic and one entomological, appointed by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, survey the extent and consequences of onchocerciasis in West Africa and propose a control program.

British Empire Society for the Blind (subsequently called the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind) is founded in the United Kingdom and begins blindness surveys in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and in East and Central Africa.

World Health Organization (WHO) is founded, but at first there are no specific activities in the field of blindness prevention.

British Government’s Colonial Office White Paper addresses the general impression that there are an estimated 5 million blind people in the world, of whom 2 million live in India.

President Herbert Hoover invites 50 countries to participate in the World Conference on Work for the Blind, which is held in 1931 in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-eight nations are represented at an assembly at The Hague where ophthalmologists from Europe and the United States and the League des Societies de la Croix Rouge found the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness.

The International Organization Against Trachoma is founded in France.

The Permanent Blind Relief War Fund for Soldiers and Sailors of the Allies, Inc. is founded in Paris to aid blind Belgian soldiers and British war blind and to educate blinded French veterans. It evolves into the American Braille Press for War and Civilian Blind, Inc. (which produced 19 million pages of braille by 1927); the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, Inc.; and finally in 1977 Helen Keller International.

Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) is founded in Germany to provide education and rehabilitation of blind and other disabled people.

The National Society to Prevent Blindness (NSPB) is founded in the United States.

London Society for the Prevention of Blindness is established and begins focusing attention on the causes and prevention of blindness at an International Congress of Hygiene in Geneva.