2021 has continued to be a challenge for many of us as we have continued to experience the often devastating effects of COVID-19. Despite those challenges, I’ve been constantly impressed by the passion and resilience across the sector and the commitment to provide eye care services often in the most difficult of circumstances. As a sector, we’ve had many achievements to celebrate this year.
The highlight was the adoption of the first United Nations General Assembly Resolution on eye health, ‘Vision for Everyone – accelerating Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’. This is the first ever UN resolution on vision and was unanimously adopted by all 193 member states. It is significant as it explicitly links eye health to over half of the Sustainable Development Goals and calls on the international community to reach the 1.1 billion people who have sight loss but do not have access to eye care by 2030. This wouldn’t have been achieved without long hours of negotiation the coordinated championing and lobbying by many members.
In May, leaders at the World Health Assembly agreed the adoption of two ambitious new global targets on refractive error and cataract surgery by 2030. To coincide with the 74th WHA we organised a virtual side event with Australia and Indonesia which featured keynote addresses from Health Ministers, government representatives and technical briefings from the WHO and country examples.
At the beginning of this year, we officially launched the second edition of the Vision Atlas at the United Friends of Vision event. The Vision Atlas is a compilation of the very latest eye health data and evidence. It is an important resource for achieving universal health coverage and implementing the sustainable development goals. The Vision Atlas was launched alongside the Lancet Global Commission on Global Eye Health, an incredibly important publication which pulled together all the latest evidence and powerfully drew out the links between eye health and the Sustainable Development Goals.
World Sight Day was by far our most successful yet. It would not have been possible without the contribution and support from our members. We set out with a target to pledge 1 million eye sight tests in the month leading up to WSD and exceeded this target more than 3 times over! This is thanks to our members, the wider sector, and members of the public who all committed to getting their eye sight tested and demonstrated the importance of good eye health for all. It was incredible to see some of the stunning locations that IAPB members and partners performed screenings at as part of our Everyone Counts Global Challenge. From Portugal to Paraguay, New Zealand to Nepal, all corners of the globe were covered.
This year a new Board of Trustees was appointed. I’d like to thank our outgoing Board members for their contribution and support to IAPB, and, in particular, our outgoing President Bob McMullan and Vice President Victoria Sheffield. We’ve welcomed a number of new faces to the Board. I’m especially delighted to welcome our new IAPB President Caroline Casey and Chair of the Board, Babar Qureshi.
24 organisations have agreed to form the Coalition for Clear Vision which IAPB will host for the first 2 years. Its goal is that ‘By 2050, URE is eliminated and everyone who needs glasses and associated services has sustainable and permanent access and can afford them’.
We have successfully delivered two Focus On programmes this year: Focus On Glaucoma in March which is in its third year running; and Focus On Diabetes with a theme of “Access to Care”. Both programmes hosted regional and global webinars, and we were thrilled to have our first hybrid event in Australia as part of the Glaucoma series.
We also ran our inaugural Advocacy to Action programme this year, with the final workshop of the series taking place on 7 December. The programme has comprised webinars and workshops focusing on global advocacy. Keep an eye out for details of next year’s programme which will have a more regional and national focus.
Looking to the future, we have recently published the new strategy for the sector: 2030 In Sight, following extensive discussion with members around the world. The strategy sets out three ambitious goals. By 2030 we want to see a world where:
- No-one experiences unnecessary or preventable sight loss and everyone can achieve their full potential
- Eye care and rehabilitation services are accessible, inclusive and affordable to everyone, everywhere, whenever they are needed
- People understand the importance of caring for their own eye health and demand access to services, free from the weight of any social stigma
Excitingly, we hope to be able to come together on 2 and 3 March 2022 in Dubai for a hybrid in-person on online event. The event, “2030 In Sight Live”, will focus how we can work together to implement the strategy and achieve its goals. We do hope to see you there, either in person or virtually.
Finally, I’d like to take opportunity to thank all members for your extraordinary work, support and participation over the past year. I’d like to wish you all the very best for 2022 and look forward to working with you next year.