World Sight Day Celebration - 11 October 2014
His Excellency Professor Dr Eksavang Vongvichit, Minister of Public Health, His Excellency Dr Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune, Mayor of Vientiane Capital, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to be able to join you today to celebrate the World Sight Day – and to support this year’s theme of “No more Avoidable Blindness” An estimated 39 million people across the globe are blind, with 90% living in low income countries.
But this need not be the case. 80% of visual impairment is avoidable. And 50% of avoidable blindness is cataract blindness. This is treatable and sight can be restored easily if the patient has been identified early. The cost of this is not insurmountable – about $25 to $45 for each operation.
Australia has been an active global player in the prevention and treatment of blindness.
Since 2008, the Fred Hollows Foundation from Australia has had an MOU with the Lao Ministry of Public Health to support and implement a Comprehensive Eye Care Project to help restore sight and to train local opthamologists.
The project has to date supported more than 4000 people to receive cataract surgery in 4 northern provinces. It will expand to take in another 3 provinces by 2015, and another 3 provinces by 2016.
The ultimate target is to restore sight for 3000 Lao people each year. Other Australian Organisations are also playing an important role.
Since 2010, Sight For All Australia has been working with National Ophthalmology Centre to improve training and provide additional equipment.
The partnerships these Australian organisations have forged with Lao agencies is having a real impact on the lives of people across the Lao PDR, and a positive impact on the Lao economy.
Research shows every dollar invested in eye care provides an economic return of $4. We look forward to this partnership continuing to address avoidable blindness and bring new opportunities to Lao people so they can fully enjoy life and contribute to the Lao PDR’s socio-economic development.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today for this important event. And every success in this important work in the future.