At least 2.2 billion people have vision impairment or blindness, of whom over 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched its first World report on vision, ahead of World Sight Day on 10 October 2019. The report found that ageing populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are among the main drivers of the rising numbers of people living with vision impairment.
“Eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “People who need eye care must be able to receive quality interventions without suffering financial hardship. Including eye care in national health plans and essential packages of care is an important part of every country’s journey towards universal health coverage.”
Dr Tedros adds: “It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses.”
Other main findings of the report include:
- The burden of eye conditions and vision impairment is not equal: it is often far greater in people living in rural areas, those with low incomes, women, older people, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations.
- The unmet need of distance vision impairment (myopia) in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions.
- Low- and middle-income regions of western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have rates of blindness that are eight times higher than in all high-income countries. Rates of cataract and trachomatous trichiasis are higher among women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
- US$14.3 billion is needed to address the backlog of 1 billion people living with vision impairment or blindness due to short and far sightedness, and cataracts.
World Sight Day was established by WHO in 2000 as an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. This year, the global theme is Vision First! - finding solutions to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to sight.