Climate emergency declared by global sight alliance on Earth Day

Image: pexels - Min An

THE FRED Hollows Foundation today joined a global call to improve environmental sustainability in eye health.

The Foundation is supporting the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ (IAPB) declaration of a climate emergency and released a Call to Action for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector.

Earth Day (22 April) is a day in which the world holds sectors accountable for their role in our environmental crisis while also calling for innovative solutions.

The IAPB recently met to discuss the devastating impacts of climate change on the environment and global health and consider ways the sector might respond.

The meeting follows work by the IAPB Climate Action Working Group– of which The Fred Hollows Foundation is a core member – to promote leadership and coordinated action across the sector to address these issues.

As a result, the working group has produced a Guide for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector, which will help efforts to ‘Restore our Earth’, the theme for this year’s Earth Day.

The Guide provides practical recommendations for eye care organisations and stakeholders to make sustainability a priority and reduce their environmental impacts.  

The Fred Hollows Foundation funded the development of these resources in partnership with the Working Group and the UK-based Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, to highlight the need for climate action within the eye health sector.

CEO Ian Wishart said all Ministries of Health, eye health organisations and professionals had a part to play.

“We must develop resilience to the challenges of the climate emergency, and as an eye care sector, do our bit to reduce the carbon footprint our sector generates,” Mr Wishart said.

“This Call to Action aligns with The Foundation’s Sustainability Policy and commitments under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s environmental and social safeguarding principles.

“Addressing environmental sustainability is also a core component of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring no-one is left behind.

“We know that climate change is affecting the delivery and supply chains of health services in many parts of the world, including for eye health.

“The impacts on already vulnerable populations will be deleterious if we don’t take ownership of making our practices environmentally sustainable.”

The Call to Action directly follows the impact of COVID-19 in countries that have seen their health systems diverting resources to manage the outbreak – resulting in an almost universal suspension of crucial eye health services, such as cataract surgeries and the distribution of glasses.

IAPB Chief Executive Officer, Peter Holland said climate change events would disrupt eye health service delivery by damaging medical facilities and affecting critical supplies – further harming low-income and already vulnerable communities.

“Globally we are seeing the devastating impacts of climate change on our environment and health,” Mr Holland said.

“Eye health is being affected through increase in trachoma infections, vitamin A deficiencies, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, allergic and dry eye diseases.

“Climate change disproportionately impacts poor, marginalised and disadvantaged populations and may exacerbate existing or create new inequities in eye health.”

IAPB recognises healthcare is a massive consumer of resources and emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for 4.4% of global emissions.

In response to this, Mitasha Yu and Imran Khan, Co-chairs of the Working Group, said they were pleased that the Call to Action and the guide were endorsed by IAPB.

“This endorsement shows the sight sector is committed and united to act on the climate emergency that is impacting access to critical, sight-saving eye health services,” Mitasha Yu and Imran Khan said.

“The Working Group will continue its efforts to bring awareness to the eye health sector and support stakeholders to take steps to become more environmentally sustainable.”

For further information read the report from International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Climate Action Working Group

Story Source: The Fred Hollows Foundation

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