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Blindness: Vision 2020 – The Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness

Efforts to address the problem of blindness have been on since 1882. When World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948, there were no specific activities for blindness prevention. Trachoma was the first blinding disease to which WHO directed its attention.

It was in mid-1970s, the late Sir John Wilson amongst others began to draw the international community’s attention to the problem of global blindness. These efforts led to the setting up of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in 1975, with Sir John Wilson as the Founder President. The founding members were the World Blind Union (WBU) and the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO).

At a country level, India was the first country in the world to launch a comprehensive nationwide program for the prevention and control of blindness – National Programme for the Control of Blindness (NPCB) in 1976. The focus then was largely on trachoma.

Towards a global effort, VISION 2020:The Right to Sight – the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness by the year 2020 was formally launched from W.H.O. Headquarters, Geneva in 1999. INDIA was among the 183 countries in the world signatories to the VISION 2020 The Right to Sight global initiative.

In May 2003, the WHO Resolution on Elimination of Avoidable Blindness was adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly, calling on all member states to commit themselves to VISION 2020 plans by 2005.

Further, member states were to establish national coordinating committees, which were to implement the national plans by 2007. The resolution also supported the mobilisation of resources to achieve a successful programme. In response to the acceptance of the Resolution, the VISION 2020 Tool Kit was developed to provide guidance and support for Governments and health professionals at all stages of development in 2003. 

In India, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight – INDIA is launched in 2004. This was in coordination with all INGOs working in the area of blindness in India, the government, centres of excellence in eye care in India and premier eye institute, Dr RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS.

In 2007, the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness Action Plan 2006-2011 was released by the WHO.

The2009-2013 Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment was endorsed by the 62nd World Health Assembly in 2009.

The 66th World Health Assembly unanimously approves ‘Universal Eye Health: A Global Action Plan 2014-2019’. The plan, building upon and replacing previous VISION 2020 and 2009 – 2013 Action Plans, commits governments to a 25% reduction in the prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by the year 2019 from the baseline of 2010.

In India, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight – INDIA held a national consultation in 2015 in collaboration with the WHO India, the Indian Health Ministry, IAPB south Asia and INGOs to adopt the Global Action Plan report 2014 – 19 to chalk out a road map for India.