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Published: 07.12.2022
Babar Qureshi Vice President and Board Chair

A lot of progress has been made this year in our efforts to continue to put eye health on the global agenda, and to look at ways of supporting countries to ensure that effective and inclusive eye services become part of government plans and policies.

The first significant occasion was the 2030 In Sight Live Event in Dubai at the beginning of March, which provided the first post-pandemic opportunity for us all to see each other face to face. 2030 In Sight focuses on elevating vision as a development issue, integrating eye health into wider health care systems and activating consumer and market opportunities. It provides the structure for all our work going forward.

It has been an important year for the WHO’s programme of work in eye care and vision. With the support of the IAPB, The Guide for Action was launched in Geneva during the 75th World Assembly in May. It provides step-by-step guidance to countries in implementing the recommendations of the World Report on Vision and the World Health Assembly Resolution on integrated people-centered eye care (IPEC). The guide includes four tools developed by the WHO to support the analysis, planning, implementation and review of IPEC.

The IAPB and its members have been working alongside the WHO to include two eye health indicators in the Universal Health Coverage framework and ultimately, the inclusion of these indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals. The challenge to establish reliable and comprehensive data to back up the indicators has been one that has engaged many of us this year. The WHO launched a report on progress on the indicators in October. It serves as a useful reference point for monitoring progress towards the 2030 global targets for cataract surgery and refractive error. It also includes additional efforts to help improve monitoring, and the policies and programmes required for increasing the coverage of eye care interventions.

Lobbying for support for eye health in the form of a UN Special Envoy on Vision has also been one of the drives of our advocacy work. The appointment of a dedicated envoy who would serve as a global champion for vision and support the Secretary General and the WHO in mobilising national action on eye health, will help us to ensure that our ambition that everyone has access to affordable eye health services becomes a reality.

In October, many of us in the sector gathered in New York to celebrate World Sight Day and to call for greater action. The UN Friends of Vision held an eye screening and exhibition at the UN Headquarters and this provided an opportunity to speak to decision makers about the importance of vision as a cross-cutting development issue.

World Sight Day was bigger and better than ever before with people from remote areas of Tanzania to sports stadiums in America joining in with the Love Your Eyes campaign. Our target of 5 million screenings reached almost 7 million in the end, showing just how much people are taking on board this message and disseminating it. Photographs of people in heart shaped glasses, and videos of people passing on their spectacles took over social media and there were over 200 million impressions on the various platforms.

Next year looks set to build on what has been done this year and with a new business plan and strategy, there is great optimism and will in the sector to continue the endeavour to make sure that everyone who needs eye care gets it.