Those who have it take it for granted. Those who don't are left in the dark. Not anymore. The world is finally opening its eye to the problem, taking some concrete steps to tackle the issue. "Global blindness is huge, with 45 million with no sight and nearly 125 million who have low vision," ...

By Sushil Kutty

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 3 Jan 2004, 1:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:38 AM

says Dr Akef El-Maghraby, founder-chairman of the El-Maghraby Eye & Ear Hospitals and Centers in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, "In the range of 180 million and at least 80 per cent of this number is avoidable blindness. Sixty per cent can be treated, 20 per cent prevented."

Ninety per cent of the world's blind live in developing countries. Africa and Asia account for as much as 50 per cent of the 180 million. "If nothing is done, then by year 2020 the number of totally blind will jump from 45 million to 75 million," warns Dr Maghraby.

Something is being done with the Vision 2020 programme. The programme with its "Right to Sight" slogan has been developed by the World Health Organisation in tandem with interested international agencies - non-governmental organisations - for the prevention of blindness.

"The programme aims to save lost world productivity by about 103 billion dollars and save cost on low vision and error refraction by over 300 billion dollars," says Dr Maghraby, adding that the "treatment of blind is very cost-effective for the world economy."

Dr Maghraby says every five seconds there's an adult turning blind and every minute there's a child going blind. That's the real problem, the problem that needs some correction. In the Arab world, there are about 3 million who are blind with cataract causing it in 50 per cent of the lot followed by trachoma and glaucoma, and childhood blindness adding to the dark figures.

Global trends have been affecting the state of the blind, with a definite improvement in the average age of the population, there's bound to be an addition to the cataract population and with urbanisation, the problem of global blindness will see an increase as there wouldn't be eye care coverage in many regions, areas, says Dr Maghraby.

"Right to Sight is a global initiative called Vision 2020. Its aim is to eliminate avoidable blindness either by treatment or by prevention. The initiative got going in May 2003 with the support of all governments at the 56th World Health Assembly. The initiative called on all countries to prepare a national plan by 2005 for the prevention of blindness, apply it by 2007 and evaluate progress by 2010.

The initiative advocates that blindness is a major healthcare problem and calls for controlling its four major causes as also in making efforts to garner resources to make Vision 2020 a success, make low vision aids and spectacles affordable and available to the poor, put in place an infrastructure that would enable Vision 2020 properly.

Non-governmental organisations are already spending 100 million dollars a year in tackling blindness, Vision 2020 calls for adding another $100m to the kitty.

More news from