An ambitious multi-stakeholder $1bn Vision Catalyst Fund, established by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust) aims to lay the foundations to bring eye care to all people in the Commonwealth and around the world.
The Trust is joining forces with civil society, public and private sector organisations with expertise in eye health to develop the Vision Catalyst Fund over the next two years. Once operational, the $1billion Vision Catalyst Fund will seek to accelerate systems change and expand universal eye health services led by governments, to provide sustainable and efficient long term solutions for eye health to entire populations in Commonwealth countries and across the globe.
Philanthropist and Founder of Clearly, James Chen, has committed $10 million to the Vision Catalyst Fund, becoming its first funder. “I am delighted to commit $10 million to the Vision Catalyst Fund and become its first funder,” said Mr. Chen. “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. I am prepared to meet anyone who is interested in matching my contribution and discuss why this issue can no longer be forgotten.”
Dr. Astrid Bonfield CBE, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said, “I am delighted that a diverse range of partners are coming together to help develop and progress this exciting and ambitious initiative with the potential to create new approaches to funding eye health. 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. 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.”
Vision Crucial to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Eighty-five million people in the Commonwealth today are blind or have very poor vision. Globally, 2.5 billion people lack access to glasses, 1.1 billion of whom need glasses to improve their near vision. As the world’s population grows and ages, these numbers are set to grow significantly. Without urgent action millions more people around the Commonwealth and across the world will experience the social, educational and economic hardship that poor eyesight can bring.
Women and girls are disproportionately affected, particularly by diseases like trachoma – the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. If proven, simple and cost-effective treatments, for example glasses and cataract surgery, are made universally accessible, billions of dollars in increased productivity and reduced healthcare costs will be gained by the global economy.
Vision is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to the often devastating impact blindness and poor eyesight has on individuals and the families who care for them, it prevents societies from reaching their full economic potential.
The news of the $ 1 billion Vision Catalyst Fund comes ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London and Windsor in April. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is working with other leading eye health agencies under the ‘Vision for the Commonwealth’ banner to call on Commonwealth leaders to bring vision to everyone, everywhere and for each country to commit to taking one significant action by 2020 towards that goal.