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Pacific Celebrates World Sight Day

Pacific Celebrates World Sight Day

The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ) is celebrating today’s World Sight Day [eds: Thursday 9 Oct] around the Pacific. In conjunction with its partners in Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga, local festivities will draw attention to the need to reduce the amount of preventable blindness in the Pacific.

World Sight Day is marked annually as an opportunity to remind governments and the public that preventing loss of sight is more cost effective and humane than rehabilitating the blind. As part of the day’s activities around the Pacific there will be free vision testing in local markets, as well as the Members of Parliament signing declarations of support for national eye care programmes.

In Vanuatu the Minister of Health is signing his commitment to the extension of the National Eye Care Program that The Fred Hollows Foundation has developed. This programme, now in its third year, has already resulted in nine eye care nurses and one doctor being trained in that country, as well as a new eye clinic having been built and equipped in the northern more populous island of Santo.

In Fiji and Tonga, the Prime Ministers and Directors of Health are both signing declarations of support to eliminate unnecessary blindness in those countries. The Foundation is a major supporter and funder of the development of national eye programmes right throughout the Pacific. These programmes focus on training doctors and nurses and building eye clinics so access to eye care becomes less problematic.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is a task force member of Vision 2020, a global WHO led campaign which is also launching a “Tool Kit” CD ROM on World Sight Day. The tool kit provides a step by step approach to developing local strategies which will help eradicate 80 per cent of blindness.

Governments around the world have this year shown their support for blindness prevention activities by unanimously voting in support of a Resolution at the 56th World Health Assembly in May 2003. The Resolution urges all Governments to develop, implement and evaluate Vision 2020 National Prevention of Blindness Plans, with a view to implementing them by 2007. In response to the acceptance of the Resolution, Vision 2020 has developed the ‘Tool Kit’ which provides guidance and support for Governments and health professions at all stages of development.

Dr Lee, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO) and Hannah Faal, President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) stated that the successful implementation of country and district level Vision 2020 action plans will prevent millions of men, women and children from going blind, avoiding unnecessary suffering and saving billions in lost productivity by the year 2020.

The successful implementation of national blindness prevention initiatives will result in a minimum saving of US$102 billion in lost productivity by the year 2020.1

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