Every once in a while, a solution to a global problem is right under your noseby Jack Straw / January 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
In politics, it is incredibly rare to come across a simple, genuinely affordable, solution to a systemic problem. Particularly one that could benefit nearly a third of the world’s population.
It is rarer still to find that this solution has the power to expand access to education across the globe, to increase productivity in developing countries and to help redress gender inequality.
It is frankly unheard of for this solution to also have the potential to unlock an estimated $3 trillion for the global economy.
But it turns out that millions of people in the UK have had this solution on the ends of their noses for centuries: a pair of glasses.
A global oversight
This week, a group of political heavyweights have put aside party differences to come together to highlight what is the world’s largest unaddressed disability.
Figures from Tim Farron to Emily Thornberry, from Caroline Lucas to Dame Caroline Spelman, have put on a pair of glasses—in my case, a silly pair shaped like a cat’s face—to draw attention to the simplicity of the solution.
“Roughly 2.5 billion people in the world today currently suffer from poor vision”
The Clearly campaign, which has organised the film, estimates that roughly 2.5 billion people in the world today currently suffer from poor vision, but have no access to correction or treatment.
Poor vision is not a life-threatening condition, and in contrast to the pressing threat of diseases like malaria or the global HIV Aids pandemic, it has failed historically to secure significant development funding or to make the cut for global health targets.
And yet, current rates of poor vision—by which we mean simple refractive errors like myopia (short sightedness)—are a crippling impediment to economic development in emerging economies.
The research institution, Access Economics, has put the global cost of poor vision at $3 trillion a year—mapping the far-reaching impact of uncorrected poor vision on healthcare provision, as well as the indirect costs of road and domestic accidents, informal family care and lost workplace productivity.
Looking in to the past
But there are also impacts that are much harder to quantify.
I still remember struggling to master sports at school like football where I couldn’t wear my glasses. I know first-hand how much of a life-line my glasses and…