The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has today, 23 July 2021, adopted Resolution A/75/L.108 committing the international community to eye care for the 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss by 2030. This includes 1.9 million living with blindness or visual impairment due to trachoma, one of 20 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Sight loss is calculated to cost the global economy $411billion in productivity each year and has a disproportionate impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities, many of whom are at risk of preventable blinding diseases, such as trachoma.
The resolution is the first agreement designed to tackle preventable sight loss to be adopted by the United Nations and enshrines eye health as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The resolution was passed unanimously by all 193 countries of the United Nations and complements a World Health Assembly resolution on integrated people-centred eye care, adopted in 2020. It sets a target for vision for everyone by 2030, with all UN member states set to ensure full access to eye care services for their populations, and to make eye health part of their nation’s journey to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This resolution represents a significant moment for eye health and blinding diseases caused by NTDs. It means the SDGs, including the achievement of Universal Health Coverage cannot be achieved without universal eye health coverage
“This resolution represents a significant moment for eye health and blinding diseases caused by NTDs. It means the SDGs, including the achievement of Universal Health Coverage cannot be achieved without universal eye health coverage” said Dr. Angelia Sanders, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control. “Increased investment in vision will have positive effects across all SDGs, including health, education, zero poverty, while simultaneously strengthening health systems, supported by new and expanded collaborations between the eye health and NTD sectors”.
The resolution creates new expectations for international financial institutions and donors to provide targeted finances, especially in working together with low-income countries to tackle preventable sight loss. It also creates impetus for the United Nations to incorporate eye health into its work, including through UNICEF and UN-Women to address barriers to child health and gender equity. The resolution further calls for new targets on eye care to be included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at its next review.
The plan will mean that by 2030, the 1.1 billion people globally living with sight loss will have access to support and treatment. Synergies with two WHO strategic resources, the World report on vision and Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: A road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030 will further ensure that investments are impactful and sustainable. However, this all hinges on governments and international institutions acting now to fulfil their new commitments.