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Vision for Everyone as a Catalyst for the Decade of Action
Friday, 10 July 2020
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Virtual (New York Time)

Side Event

Antigua & Barbuda

Covid-19 continues to cause havoc and make everyday life very difficult, and dangerous, for people around the world. For those with a vision impairment, the challenges due to Covid-19 can be even greater. People with sight loss often face barriers accessing preventive information. Social distancing is difficult to implement and exercise and general mobility is even more re-stricted than usual. Those who are blind rely on other senses, like hearing and physical contact, to compensate, which is not easy in isolation.

These are not challenges affecting a small segment of the world’s population. 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment and of these, at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed[1]. Without concerted action, this is set to increase dra-matically: by 2050 three times as many people will be blind as now, and half the world will be liv-ing with myopia[2].

The HLPF continues to be an opportunity for the UN Friends of Vision to draw clear links be-tween vision for everyone, and accelerated action to achieve the SDGs, and to increase aware-ness about those links to both participating delegations from capitals and UN Missions in New York. Leaving no one behind means that the international community has an obligation to con-sider these challenges as it responds to the pandemic, and it has practical incentives to do so as well. Vision makes a transformative contribution to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Accelerating action on vision is a simple and highly cost-effective means of unlocking human potential; enabling children to gain an education; working age adults to get and keep a job; and improving equality for women and girls, who are more likely to suffer poor vision and less likely to get treatment.

Vision for everyone can advance human well-being and serve as a driver of the Covid-19 re-covery. Every country in the world benefits from a society where everyone can fully participate. It has been shown that a year of wearing glasses is equivalent to up to an additional half a year of schooling[3]and wearing glasses can improve work productivity by 22%[4].Vision is also critical to reducing road traffic deaths and injuries, with some studies suggesting that impaired vision causes up to 60% of road traffic accidents[5].

Addressing vision impairment and working towards vision for everyone ensures that the over 2 billion worldwide with a vision impairment are not being left behind and that everyone, every-where can contribute to and participate in the global recovery from Covid-19.


[1]World report on vision. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019 (, accessed 4 November 2019)

[2]Holden et al.: Global prevalence of myopia and high myopia and temporal trends from 2000 through 2050 (Ophthalmology 2016;123:1036-1042)

[3]Paul Glewwe, Albert Park, Meng Zhao. A Better Vision for Development: Eyeglasses and Ac-ademic Performance in Rural Primary Schools in China. HKUST IEMS Working Paper No. 2015-37

[4]Priya Adhisesha Reddy*, Nathan Congdon*, Graeme MacKenzie. Effect of providing near glasses on productivity among rural Indian tea workers with presbyopia (PROSPER): a random-ised trial. Lancet Glob Health 2018; 6: e1019–27

[5]Vision spring (, accessed on 9 April 2020)

Speakers & Format:
  • Opening Speaker 1 & Panel Chair: Ambassador Webson, Permanent Representative, Mission of Antigua and Barbuda, co-Chair, UN Friends of Vision (Confirmed). Sets the context, provides an overview of vision for everyone’s potential to accelerate action and achieve multiple SDGs while accelerating the global recovery from Covid-19.
  • Opening Speaker 2: Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN and Friends of Vision co-Chair. (TBC)
  • Speaker: UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. Ms. Wickramanayake will provide the per-spective of young people with regard to vision impairment and the challenges posed by Covid-19. (Confirmed)
  • Panel Discussion:
  • Panelist One: Ms Amanda Huang, Cluster Lead - China Vietnam Cambodia Laos & Myanmar, Fred Hollows Foundation - Focusing on the experience of the eye health sector in China specifi-cally as well as on other parts of East Asia. (Confirmed)
  • Panelist Two: Dr. Ciku Mathenge, Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology and author of WHO Africa’s ‘Primary Eye Care Training Manual’. Dr. Mathenge will focus on accelerated action on vision in Africa and the impact of Covid-19. (Confirmed)
  • Panellist Three: Dr. Promila Gupta, formerly the head of the National Program for the Control of Blindness in India, currently Principal Consultant to the Directorate General of Health Services in India. (TBC)
  • Panelist Four: Alarcos Cieza, Unit Head, Sensory Functions, Disability and Rehabilitation, WHO - Author of the WHO World Report on Vision (Confirmed)
  • If you have registration questions, please contact Holly Aindow at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) by emailing:

    Once attendees have registered, they will receive all participation and sign-in details via email and the option to download a suitable calendar invitation.

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