Last November, when I sat down to draft the ‘year that was’ I wrote the following:
Looking back over 2019, it’s impossible not to also look ahead to 2020. The pivotal year that many of us have been working towards throughout our career in the eye health sector, is almost upon us. It’s only fitting that our members and stakeholders are keeping one eye on the future and that they expect us to as well.
Let me be the first to admit that in keeping one eye on the future, I certainly didn’t spot the 2020 storm brewing… and I’m pretty sure that none of our members or stakeholders did either! The 2020 we were anticipating will be a year we’ll never forget for all the wrong reasons. Yet, it should also be remembered in the Western Pacific for the adaptability and resilience of our sector; despite the pandemic we have managed to discuss, disseminate, coordinate and participate. Here are a handful of highlights:
World Report on Vision Launch, Papua New Guinea: When the Health Minister, the Honourable Jelta Wong declared ‘my eyes have been opened’, we knew that the WRV was striking the right chords. It’s an advocacy document aimed at grabbing the attention of policy makers and at the year’s most colourful launch it certainly did that – a terrific outcome with Ministry support for a policy dialogue in 2021. (special thanks to members Brien Holden Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation for the launch support)
World Sight Day, 2020: The ‘biggest’ World Sight Day ever, thanks I suspect, in large part due to the pandemic. In the Western Pacific, as everywhere, World Sight Day was different in 2020 with new and unusual ways to get the message across. From, Samoa to PNG, to Malaysia and the Philippines panel discussions and policy dialogues took place. In Australia, Vision 2020 Australia captured the attention of the Prime Minister who gave a televised statement; in Cambodia the National Eye Programme team was interviewed Live on National TV. (special thanks to Eye Care Foundation for coordinating the event).
Iso Pivot in the Year that Zoomed past: A slew of new terminology would be a highlight – if any of us ever wanted to hear them again. But whilst we are all heartily sick of remote meetings and rooms framed by Zoom, the adaptability and resilience, we have all shown is a highlight of 2020. The Zoom meetings have demonstrated that even once we all can meet again it will remain an important tool of accessibility for those who are unable to travel. There have been some fascinating webinars – Build Back Equal on gender equity led by Jennifer Gersbeck at the Fred Hollows Foundation and Blinded by Sugar, led by Dr James Muecke at Sight For All are but two (it would be remiss at this point not to congratulate James’ on his award as Australian of the Year – a highlight for 2020 if ever there was one).
Once again we gratefully acknowledge the Fred Hollows Foundation for its ongoing support. We also thank Singapore Eye Research Institute for their understanding and advice as the Global Assembly situation evolved. We can’t do the work we do without our members’ support and this year you have demonstrated an extra level of strength. A shout out to the national bodies who have been so important in maintaining the spirits of the eye health sector, especially those with which IAPB Western Pacific has worked closely – Eye Health Working Group Korea, National Prevention of Blindness Committee of China, Eye Care Working Group Vietnam, Eye Care Working Group Laos, Sub-Sectoral Working Group Cambodia, Eye Care Partners Philippines, PBL Papua New Guinea & Prevention of Blindness Committee Malaysia. #strongertogether