Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI)
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people whose vision is impaired, of whom 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. The vast majority of people with blindness or vision impairment live in developing countries. Through cost-effective interventions, such as providing spectacles or cataract surgery, up to 80 per cent of blindness is treatable or preventable.
Australia’s investment in eye health and avoidable blindness aims to improve the quality of life for people with low vision and blindness and to reduce the prevalence of preventable blindness. Avoidable blindness is listed under a core outcome of the AusAID disability-inclusive development strategy.
Through an initial $45 million budget measure announced in 2008, Australia supported a number of eye health and blindness prevention programs, including through an Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI). Phase one of ABI funding supported partnerships with organisations such as the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the World Health Organization in the Western Pacific Region. Australia also worked with New Zealand to support the continuation of the Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand’s Pacific Regional Blindness Prevention Program.
A second phase of ABI funding was announced in May 2011, which provides $21.3 million over four years (2011–15) to help eliminate avoidable blindness in East Asia. This is expected to result in more than 8,000 sight-restoring surgeries and more than 100,000 vision screenings.