Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr. Mohammed Hasan Mahmud, MP, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh at UN Friends of Vision Group’s Official Side-Event on ‘Delivering Universal Eye Care: Innovative Capacity Building to End Avoidable Sight Loss, Strengthen Health System Resiliency and Accelerate Progress towards the SDGs’ on 27 May 2024 at American University of Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda.

Hon’ble Minister of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Trade & Barbuda Affairs, Mr. Chet Greene,


Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you for this side event being held under the aegis of the UN Friends of Vision Group. I thank Foreign Minister Greene for gathering us here, and especially for taking lead on advancing the issue of Vision within the SDG framework.

In 2021, Bangladesh considered it a moral imperative to join hands with Antigua & Barbuda and Ireland to have the UN General Assembly adopt the Resolution on “Vision for Everyone”. Our main objectives were to flag the inequities inherent in the global eye health scenario and to help accelerate the 2030 global targets focusing on cataract and refractive error – the two major causes of vision impairment and blindness. It deserves to be flagged that almost 80% of vision impairment is preventable, and that most cases are prevalent among rural communities in low and middle-income countries.


Distinguished guests,

In Bangladesh, our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina personally attaches importance to preventing vision impairment and expanding access to eye-care for all. Under her directives, 200 Community Eye Centres have been set up across the country, providing free-of-cost screening services for cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and childhood visual impairment. Our government has plans to set up an additional 250 such centres by 2029, based on the model of services provided by trained nurses through tele-consultation with ophthalmologists if needed. The long-term plan is to provide basic eye care services through our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s flagship initiative of more than 14,500 community clinics.

Bangladesh was, in fact, among the first countries to have formulated an Integrated People-Centred Eye Care Programme as part of our efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030. Under the programme, there has been a marked increase in effective coverage of cataract surgeries and refractive error correction. For the latter, the programme provides spectacles free-of-cost through Community Eye Centres. In parallel, there has been significant decrease in childhood blindness, thanks to initiatives such as Vitamin A supplement campaigns, mega eye camps and school sight testing programmes.  Looking ahead, our government has plans to expand coverage of corneal disease treatment and transplant as well as screening and management of retinopathy of prematurity.

We acknowledge that we need to make further investments in making our public infrastructures and transports conducive to use by visually impaired people. At the behest of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, the nation-wide free-of-cost textbook distribution programme on the first day every year now includes multi-media talking books for visually impaired students. Again, in our efforts to promote digital inclusivity, our government has been working together with the private sector to enhance digital literacy and training for persons with vision impairment and other disabilities. Bangladesh has recently acceded to the WIPO Marrakech Treaty to widen scope for visually impaired people to access and reproduce international publications through copyright waivers. In all these undertakings, we remain sensitized to the added vulnerabilities of visually impaired women and girls that need to be addressed through gender-sensitive interventions.

At the UN, Bangladesh will continue to support the work of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Vision, and the holding of eye camps at the UN premises on the occasion of the ‘World Sight Day’ every year. In pursuance of the high-level event held in September last year, the Friends of Vision Group will champion the call for holding a Global Eye Health Summit in 2026.


Distinguished audience,

We need to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to eye health diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation services and the technologies they need. This would be a critical building block in achieving our shared objectives of achieving inclusive and equitable development and ensuring that no one is left behind.

I thank you all.

 Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu