International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

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The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is a coordinating, umbrella organization to lead an international effort in mobilizing resources for blindness prevention activities. It was set up on January 1, 1975, by the late Sir John Wilson, the Founder President. The founding members were the World Blind Union, and the International Federation of Ophthalmological Societies (now the International Council of Ophthalmology).


IAPB aspires to link professional bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions, and interested individuals, with national programmes for the prevention of blindness.

According to the WHO (2010), 285 million people are visually impaired, of whom 246 million people have low vision and 39 million are blind all over the world.[1][2] It has been estimated that the number of the visually impaired could rise. About 80% of blindness is avoidable (it can be prevented or cured). The treatment of cataracts, which accounts for about half of all blindness, is one of the most cost-effective health interventions known.

The first major achievement of IAPB was the establishment of the WHO Programme for Prevention of Blindness[3] (WHO/PBL), with which, it then entered into an official relationship.


In order to formalise a collaboration between the International NGDO community and WHO/PBL, the Consultative Group was formed, an elected body of 10 NGDOs from the Partnership Committee. The Consultative Group met every two years with WHO/PBL, from 1986 to 1994. This body made important contributions to strategies for preventing blindness, but it was limited in what it could achieve due to a lack of designated funding.

In 1994, at the Fifth IAPB General Assembly in Berlin, the Consultative Group was replaced by a "Task Force for Prevention of Blindness". The founder members were CBM International, and Sight Savers International, who were soon joined by Helen Keller International, and Orbis International]. During the period 1996 to 1998, through a series of consultations between the Programme Advisory Group (PAG) of WHO, the Partnership Committee, and the Task Force, the document, "Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness",[4] was developed and adopted. The document sets out priorities and strategies to eliminate avoidable blindness.

VISION 2020: The Right to Sight[edit]

The Task Force was integrated within IAPB, becoming the "Task Force of IAPB", and a Memorandum of Understanding to implement the "Global Initiative to Eliminate Avoidable Blindness" was signed between IAPB and WHO. Under their joint auspices, "VISION 2020: The Right to Sight",[5] was officially launched by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO in Geneva on February 18, 1999, and further promoted by IAPB at the Sixth Assembly in Beijing, in September 1999. Following the launch of VISION 2020, the Task Force increased in membership, and in 2000, it was decided to hold joint-meetings of the IAPB Executive Committee and the Task Force, chaired by the President of IAPB.

Since the launch of VISION 2020, a major concerted international effort is being made in areas such as advocacy, resource mobilisation, joint-planning, strengthening national capacities through human resource development, and the transfer of appropriate technologies to developing countries. Global technical plans were developed, highlighting the priority areas that need to be addressed in each region, and the proposed strategies to reach the goals of VISION 2020 in these regions.

Complementing the technical plans, a business plan was developed to raise funds and implement the programme. Regional and national workshops, and launch events in WHO/IAPB regions, have been and are being organised to raise awareness of blindness prevention. Plans for prevention of blindness have also been developed at both national and district level. A conservative estimate of the productivity gain from VISION 2020 is $102 billion over the 20-year period. The costs of many of the interventions that form the VISION 2020 initiative are relatively modest, particularly for public health interventions, such as the distribution of Vitamin A capsules, and Mectizan for onchocerciasis.

The World Sight Day, initiated by the SightFirst Campaign of Lions Club International Foundation, was integrated into VISION 2020, and is being held on the second Thursday of October, every year, since 2000. The World Sight Day has proved to be an effective advocacy and awareness tool.

In May 2003, the 56th World Health Assembly of Ministers adopted a "Resolution on Elimination of Avoidable Blindness", which calls on all member states to prepare VISION 2020 plans by 2005. Further, member states are to establish national coordinating committees, which are to start implementing the national plans by 2007, and to report back in 2010. The Ministers proposed a Monitoring Committee to oversee the programme. The resolution also supports the mobilization of resources to ensure a successful program. In response to the Resolution, a VISION 2020 Tool Kit has been developed to provide guidance and support for Governments and health professionals. Vision 2020

New developments[edit]

All these developments have necessitated revisions in the structure and governance of the IAPB, as laid down in the current constitution. A Constitutional Review Committee was set up in 2002 with Dr. Pararajasegaram, as Chair, to amend the Constitution, incorporating the opinions of stakeholders. As well as modifications in terminology and structure, the new Constitution was aligned with the Charity Law in UK, where IAPB is now incorporated. The new Constitution was ratified by the Seventh General Assembly of IAPB in Dubai, in September 2004.

The WHO released new data on the prevalence of global blindness in 2010. According to the updated figures, 285 million people are visually impaired, of whom 246 million people are affected by low vision, and 39 million are blind. Cataract is the major cause for global blindness (51%), especially in the developing countries. Glaucoma (8%), age-related macular degeneration (5%) and diabetic retinopathy (1%), along with cataract, account for 65% of all blindness in the world. These figures seem to indicate the success for VISION 2020, but also continue to highlight the challenge of achieving its goal - eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020.

Global Action Plan 2014-2019[edit]

"Universal Eye Health: A global action plan 2014–2019" – the WHO Global Action Plan was unanimously adopted by Member States at the World Health Assembly held in Geneva in 2013 (V2020 was included, actually). The Vision of the Plan is "a world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential and where there is universal access to comprehensive eye care services".

The Goals of the Plan are to: reduce Visual Impairment as a global public health problem; secure access to rehabilitation for visually impaired services. Its objectives are to: generate evidence on magnitude and causes of visual impairment and use it in advocacy; develop and implement integrated national eye health policies and plans; ensure multi-sectoral engagement and effective partnerships.

The Global Action Plan sets itself a Global Target of a "Reduction in prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by 25% by 2019" (from the baseline prevalence in 2010). To monitor progress a small number of key indicators are to be monitored: Prevalence and Causes of Visual Impairment; Numbers of Ophthalmologists, Optometrists and Allied Ophthalmic Personnel; Cataract Surgical Rate and Cataract Surgical Coverage.[6]


As of March 2016, the IAPB board consists of Bob McMullan (president), Victoria Sheffield (vice-president), and Adrian Poffley (treasurer) as well as founding members Hugh Taylor and Arnt Holte.[7]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]