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News Release

Lions Join Call for Action on Blindness

Geneva, Switzerland, May 21, 2009 – The 62nd World Health Assembly, governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), today endorsed the WHO Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment. Lions Clubs International Foundation joins the endorsement as a member organization of the International Agency for the Preventation of Blindness, a group comprised of blindness prevention organizations worldwide.

Worldwide, 45 million people are blind, and 269 million live with serious visual impairment. Yet 80 percent of blindness is from avoidable causes, which could be readily prevented, treated or cured by known and cost-effective methods.

The plan aims to expand efforts by member states, WHO and international partners in VISION 2020, to prevent blindness and visual impairment by the development of comprehensive eye health programmes at national & sub-national levels. It sets out current experience, draws on the recognised achievements and deals with gaps in implementing activities over the past decades.

The Action Plan was drafted by the WHO Prevention of Blindness team. Delegates appreciated the high technical quality of the document and congratulated WHO on this accomplishment. Many delegates referred to ongoing prevention of blindness activities in their countries and in this context they highlighted the value of the Global Initiative VISION 2020: The Right to Sight in improving eye health and facilitating the development of eye care services.

WHO team leader for Prevention of Blindness & Deafness, Dr. Ivo Kocur said, “Adoption of the Action Plan by the WHA is a major accomplishment and will provide additional unprecedented support to VISION 2020 and our joint efforts to improve eye health internationally.”

Twenty-nine member States spoke in support of the Action Plan: Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Russia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Jamaica, The People’s Republic of China, Japan, Morocco, Bahrain, Venezuela, Saint Lucia, Australia, United States of America, Malaysia, Philippines, Cuba, Italy, Gambia, Myanmar, Columbia, Paraguay, Korea, Chile, Thailand, Suriname, India, Lesotho & Greece.

During the discussion, Christian Garms, President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), made a statement on behalf of IAPB which underlined the value of its collaboration with WHO and willingness to further support joint activities: In a letter to IAPB’s 107 members, Garms noted that  alongside the two WHA resolutions on prevention of blindness and vision impairment, adopted in 2003 and 2006, this endorsement would mark “a major milestone in the history of prevention of blindness and once again proves the value of our strong relationship and excellent collaboration with WHO.”

About Lions Clubs International Foundation:
Lions Clubs International Foundation is the official charitable organization of Lions Clubs International. Lions have a decades-long commitment to blindness prevention through SightFirst, a global blindness prevention initiative with a mission to significantly reduce and prevent avoidable blindness worldwide. The program was launched in 1990, and it is administered by LCIF. To date it has saved the vision of more than 30 million people worldwide. For more information, visit www.lcif.org. Lions established World Sight Day 10 years ago, and it is now an international program of IAPB and VISION 2020.

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