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$1 billion vision catalyst fund to provide universal eyecare in the Commonwealth

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is establishing a US$1 billion (AU$1.27 b) eyecare fund with the goal of providing universal eyecare throughout the Commonwealth and around the world.

The Vision Catalyst Fund will rely on a range of civil society and public-private stakeholders to raise the funds over the next two years. Once operational, the fund will aim to accelerate systems change and expand universal eye health services to the 85 million people in the Commonwealth who are blind or have very poor vision.

A release from the trust stated vision was crucial to achieving sustainable development goals, and that billions of dollars in increased productivity and reduced healthcare costs could be gained globally if the fund proves successful. Trust CEO Dr Astrid Bonfield said she was delighted a diverse range of partners had given their support to help develop the initiative.

“We have a big job ahead of us to shape the fund, attract investors and ensure collaboration with governments to meet the needs of millions of people yet to be reached,” Bonfield said.

“But, we have the solutions for universal eye health. We know they work. We now have an historic opportunity to work in partnership and create a fund that can bring sight to entire populations across the Commonwealth and the world.”

The president of online eyewear retailer Clearly, Mr James Chen, became the first funder by donating US$10 million (AU$12.7 m) to the effort.

“The issue of poor vision is unique in terms of the number of people affected, the simplicity of the solution, which in most cases is a pair of glasses, and high returns for both improving people’s lives and the local economy,” Chen said.

“I am prepared to meet anyone who is interested in matching my contribution and discuss why this issue can no longer be forgotten.”

The trust also received support from Mr Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, chief mission officer at Essilor International.

“Essilor has the ambition to eradicate uncorrected poor vision in one generation. While we’re making good progress, we firmly believe in the power of cross sector partnerships as the only way to bring good vision to everyone, everywhere,” he said.

The trust will be promoting the “Vision for the Commonwealth” campaign with leading eye health agencies at this month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings in London and Windsor to encourage leaders to commit to taking significant action to address vision problems by 2020.

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