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Eye Health in the Commonwealth Progress Report is launched

HRH The Countess of Wessex, Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC and Global Parenting Expert Jo Frost have joined Commonwealth diplomats and the Vision for the Commonwealth coalition to launch a landmark report on the progress of eye health in the Commonwealth.
Published: 20.05.2021
Eye Health in the Commonwealth Report cover
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Key findings of the report

The report reviews the progress made in every Commonwealth country following the Commonwealth Heads of Government commitment to eye health made at their 2018 meeting in London. 

The report shows that despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, the number of people across the Commonwealth at risk of trachoma has nearly halved since 2018 from 42 million to 24 million. Two Commonwealth countries, Ghana and The Gambia, have achieved elimination of trachoma – the only sub-Saharan African countries to do so thus far. However, the event also highlighted that cuts to the UK Government’s trachoma elimination programme put at risk these successes. 

The report’s key recommendation is that the Commonwealth commit to school-based eye tests and care for all children. Glasses are one of the most effective health interventions for children, reducing the odds of failing a class by 44% and improving the life chances of young people. More than 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2 billion population are under 30 years of age. CHOGM this year will focus on young people and delivering a common future.  

HRH The Countess of Wessex

During the event HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO, IAPB Global Ambassador said  “Eyesight needs to remain high up on the global agenda. We know all too well that healthcare has been under enormous pressure these past months, but I am heartened to see how much has been achieved in eye health around the Commonwealth and my thanks goes to the Commonwealth governments for making the gift of sight a priority.” 

Select the following video to view the speech by HRH The Countess of Wessex (5:08).

Baroness Scotland

Baroness Scotland said “Since the 2018 Heads of Government Commitment to quality eye care for all, including eliminating trachoma by 2020, I am pleased to say there have been positive developments on eye health in every region of the Commonwealth. 

“The number of people at risk of trachoma has almost halved and Commonwealth countries are increasingly investing in eye health. 

 “Many Commonwealth countries have begun to address children’s vision in schools, improving their school performance, health and well-being. 

“Yet even with these commendable achievements, eye health remains a major public health challenge. More than 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to the eye health services they need. Amongst our children, who are our future, 91 million live with vision loss and distressingly, these figures are projected to rise. 

Jo Frost

Global Parenting Expert, Jo Frost said “This is a cause I am extremely passionate about because as a young child myself, I was wearing glasses. 

“Eye tests and affordable treatments, including glasses, totally transform the vision of generations to come. We can help boost test scores by the equivalent of up to six months of additional schooling, with glasses being one of the most effective health interventions. This is about our children’s future lives, their education. 

Select the following video to view the speech by Jo Frost (3:08).

Peter Holland

Peter Holland, IAPB CEO and Chair of the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition said “Progress on eye health around the Commonwealth has been a great success, however the Vision for the Commonwealth coalition are surprised and saddened that the UK government is planning to prematurely stop all funding for its trachoma programmes around the Commonwealth.  The Vision for the Commonwealth coalition is calling on the UK government not to walk away from the commitments it has made to the people of the Commonwealth to eliminate trachoma and protect the legacy of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.” 

You can access the report and the full event at the following links.