Nearly 30% of the world’s blind and vision-impaired population lives in the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR). Refractive error and cataract remain the principal causes of visual impairment. Moreover, ageing, and lifestyle factors like diabetes will cause an increase in the number of people with vision impairment, highlighting the need for comprehensive eye care in the coming decades.
The Seventy-Fourth session of the WHO South-East Asia Regional committee in 2021, mandated the development of a Regional Action Plan for integrated people-centred eye care taking into consideration the 2030 global targets for effective cataract coverage and refractive error coverage that were endorsed by the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly. Subsequently, the “Action Plan for integrated people centred eye care in South-East Asia 2022-2030” (“Action Plan”) was developed in consultation with various experts on eye health, partners, WHO Collaborating Centres and government focal persons. This “Action Plan” envisions equitable access to high-quality, comprehensive eye health services to achieve universal eye health by 2030 for the South-east Asia Region. The “Action Plan” was endorsed by the Seventy-Fifth session of the WHO South-East Asia Regional committee in September 2022.
With the objectives of obtaining political commitment to implement IPEC at national level eye health policy and plan, a high-level meeting was conducted from 21 to 23 February 2023 in Hyderabad, India. The meeting was attended by more than 70 participants from SEARO countries which includes Ministers of Health, senior government officials along with program managers for eye health, experts from various fields of ophthalmology, representatives from WHO Geneva, WHO SEARO, WHO-CCs, IAPB and other significant stakeholders and non-state actors in the field.
The meeting was for three days: the first day was focused on the official launching of SEA regional action plan on eye health and ministerial session on IPEC. The second day was focused on presentation of WHA resolutions and available guidelines which includes Eye Health in Health System-WHO Guide for Action, WHO published indicators on eye health and IAPB sectoral strategy on 2030 In Sight. The third day was focused on developing and presenting country action plan.
The meeting was successful in creating a platform for advocacy and working out strategies for implementation of the “Action Plan” at the country level by securing high level commitment and developing pragmatic action plans to achieve the following key targets for the Region:
- Target 1: 40-percentage point increase in effective coverage of refractive errors
- Target 2: 30-percentage point increase in effective coverage of cataract surgery
- Target 3: Ensure that at least 80% of people with diabetes are screened regularly for retinopathy, and 80% of those identified with sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy are treated by 2030.
- Target 4: To eliminate trachoma in the region by 2025.
The detail report of the meeting is being prepared, and we will publish the same once it is disseminated by WHO SEARO.