The recent adoption of the World Health Assembly resolution, ‘Integrated people-centred eye care, including preventable vision impairment and blindness’ (IPEC resolution), by 194 countries is a major milestone for global eye health.
In 2019, the World Health Organization launched the World Report on Vision. The first report of its kind, it laid out a comprehensive global strategy directed towards addressing global inequalities in access to eye health care and service provision. The report found that 2.2 billion people suffer from vision impairment globally, but nearly half of those cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed. In many cases, a pair of eyeglasses or a simple surgery can correct vision impairment. Yet for many – especially those in developing countries, those in rural areas, and women and girls – these simple solutions are out of reach.
On August 4, 2020, a new World Health Assembly resolution was adopted by the 194 member states of the World Health Organization. The integrated people-centered eye care (IPEC) resolution, which was sponsored by 45 countries, is a political commitment to advancing eye health care as part of universal health care. The World Report on Vision estimated that the number of people living with blindness could triple by 2050, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic strained health care systems even further.
Operation Eyesight welcomes the new resolution and is pleased to note that its recommendation to focus on people-centered eye care is an approach that we are already taking in our service provision. Operation Eyesight is thrilled to see that eye health is being recognized as a key component of overall health and well-being and not just a peripheral health issue. The IPEC resolution is a compelling confirmation of how crucial our mission is, now more than ever.
Although the COVID-19 health crisis has captured the world’s attention, the global eye health crisis has not diminished – it’s been exacerbated. As COVID-19 spreads around the world, it is continuing to strain health care resources in each of the countries where we work. As a result, it remains a challenge to our eye health programs. Operation Eyesight pivoted our day-to-day tasks to respond to COVID-19, but that did not detract from our focus. Our intent in supporting health care systems was to facilitate their ability to resume the provision of eye health services as soon as possible.
Operation Eyesight is working towards promoting a safe environment to start implementing our regular outreach activities, including re-launching community interventions, establishing new vision centres, and implementing new technologies such as telehealth. We have exciting plans to bring affordable, sustainable, quality eye health care to more people than ever before. COVID-19 has changed our day-to-day activities this year, but it has not changed our focus. We remain committed to ensuring entire communities are avoidable blindness-free.