Speech of the UN Resident Coordinator at the International White Day & World Sight Day event held in Maseru.
Bo Mme le Bo Ntate, Khotsong. Please allow me to pay my respects to:
HIS MAJESTY KING LETSIE III,
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER,
HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE,
HONOURABLE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY,
HER LADYSHIP THE CHIEF JUSTICE,
HIS LORDSHIP PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL;
HONOURABLE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER;
HONOURABLE MINISTERS AND DEPUTY MINISTERS OF HIS MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT, IN PARTICULAR THE MINISTER OF HEALTH, HON. NKAKU KABI; AND DEPUTY MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS HON. MOFOMOBE, WHO ARE PRESENT HERE TODAY;
MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS AND REPRESENTATIVES OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS;
DEAR COLLEAGUES FROM UN LESOTHO;
THE PRINCIPAL SECRETARY IN THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER;
SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS;
REPRESENTATIVES OF CSOs; ACADEMIA AND MEDIA HOUSES;
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, BO MME LE BO NTATE
ALL PROTOCOL OBSERVED,
On behalf of the United Nations in Lesotho, I am very pleased to celebrate World sight and white caneday with you today. These days are celebrated today in Lesotho and across the globe to create public awareness on blindness and vision impairment. These days also aim to garner support and commitment in ensuring the right to sight for all people, and the rights of the visually impaired.
The World Vision Report, which was published by the World Health Organization earlier this month, reveals that at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment, even more worrisome is that at least 1 billion of these people have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or repaired. These figures are rising daily, and they clearly tell us that there are considerable challenges in terms of eye care.
Therefore, we need to be thankful for organizations such as Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP), which, for over two decades, has been promoting and advocating equitable access to public services for persons with visual impairment, as well as capacity building in communities on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. The Government of Lesotho acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities in 2008 and by so doing it committed to adopting policies and implementing programmes geared towards protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities including those with visual impairments. In 2018, the United Nations issued a report titled: Development and Disability: Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals by, for and with persons with disabilities. The report shows that despite the progress made in recent years, persons with disabilities continue to face numerous barriers to their full inclusion and participation in the life of their communities. It sheds light on their disproportionate levels of poverty; their lack of access to education, health services and employment; and their underrepresentation in decision-making and political participation.
To contribute to improving the living conditions of the persons with visual impairment, the UN system is proud to offer 50 white canes to LNLVIP. As you know, the white cane is a vital tool which assists the visually-impaired persons to move freely and safely. It is a symbol of independence. This is because we understand that vision impairment affects every area of a persons’ life and that this challenge is often not borne equally.
The burden tends to be greater amongst people in rural communities as well as the disabled. And it is our hope that this small contribution will make a positive difference in someone’s daily life. As you know, one of the key principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to leave no one behind. This little donation is an expression of solidarity with the visually impaired persons of Lesotho. It is also an acknowledgement that VIPs have a contribution to make towards the development of the country. We therefore do not want to leave them behind.
The UN will continue strengthening partnerships with the Government of Lesotho and organizations of persons with disabilities to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as ensuring disability is mainstreamed in SDGs implementation and by so doing, leaving no one behind.
I therefore urge all stakeholders those who are present and those who are not, to work together in making eye care an integral part of our health coverage in Lesotho, as well as continuing in engaging and empowering people and communities about eye care needs. It is also important to create a conducive environment for persons with visual impairment to have access and enjoy social, economic and political benefits that accrue from the development processes on an equal basis with their non-disabled counterparts.
With these few words, and from all of us at the UN Lesotho, I wish you all happy, healthy and safe Sight and White cane days.