It was all about eye health at the UN during the week of 18 November. First, we launched the World Report on Vision at the UN on 19 November. This was the first in the series of launches of the World Report planned over the next 12 months. Over 60 Ambassadors, UN staff and civil society representatives gathered in conference room 7 to hear about the report’s recommendations, and crucially its implications for advancing the SDG agenda.
In an attempt to raise this attention, we took over the UN Secretariat Lobby on 21 November for the Eye Health Exhibition and Vision Screening. The exhibition was designed to be multi-purpose, providing free screenings or exams to anyone who might need them, whilst also providing information relevant to all those working to advance the SDG agenda at the United Nations. We screened over 400 Ambassadors and UN staff and spoke to countless more about the various ways governments can enable greater access to eye health in their own countries.
This was the largest meeting of the UN Friends of Vision to date. Over 60 people from around 30 countries were in attendance including Japan, Indonesia, Rwanda, Costa Rica, UK, India, Canada, Australia, and a large number of Caribbean nations. The event was chaired by Ambassador Webson and included remarks from the PRs of Bangladesh and Ireland as well as Dr. Silvio Mariotti, Senior Medical Officer of the WHO and one of the authors of the World Report on Vision. Peter Holland, Chief Executive of IAPB, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, former Health Minister of Rwanda and Jennifer Gersbeck, Director – Global Partnerships and Advocacy at The Fred Hollows Foundation from the Fred Hollows Foundation also spoke.
The eye health exhibition and vision screening event was proposed by the Bangladesh Mission to the UN at an early UN Friends of Vision meeting. The screening was held in the UN Secretariat Lobby which is the main staff entrance to the UN building. This meant we had a very large footfall and all those coming into the building on the day saw the Friends of Vision branding and World Report on Vision video. This event was a real collaboration with almost 50 team members on hand including four optometrists, a number of NGO staff, the WHO and UN staff. OneSight and Vision Spring in co-ordination with Vision Council of America demonstrated the range of screening options one might encounter around the world, including comprehensive eye exams.