Paediatric patient Saliou writes with chalk on the board of his schoolroom, wearing glasses

World Sight Day: new statistics highlight need to increase efforts

On World Sight Day 2017, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) have released the most up-to-date figures on the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment around the world.

The figures, published as part of the IAPB Vision Atlas show global cases of blindness and vision loss have been on the decline for the last few years - down from 289 million to 253 million. This encouraging news shows that global blindness prevention efforts are working.

However, due to an ageing and growing global population, a steep increase in myopia and the rising tide of diabetic retinopathy, we are set to enter a new era of blindness and visual impairment. We could even see blindness triple by 2050 if access to eye health services is not improved.

Between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of blindness was reduced from 0.75% of the world’s population to 0.48%.

The prevalence of visual impairment also decreased, from 3.83% to 2.90%

During this time period, 90 million people were treated or prevented from being blind or visually impaired.

The new data tells us that in 2015 there were 36 million people who were blind and a further 217 million living with severe or moderate visual impairment. A staggering 75% of these are suffering from a condition that could be treated or prevented. That's around 190 million people blind or visually impaired - needlessly.

A further 1.1 billion people have a condition which can be treated with a pair of spectacles.

When we looked at the data, we found the UK’s prevalence of blindness – the second lowest in the world – to be twenty times lower than the highest ranking country, Afghanistan – a stark contrast!

The five countries with the lowest rates of blindness globally are all in Europe, and most countries with the highest rates of blindness are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The solutions to improving eye health are known, proven, and cost-effective. These figures demonstrate that having access to quality eye health services – such as screening, glasses, antibiotics and surgery - is the greatest factor in preventing blindness!

Orbis works with partners to fight avoidable blindness and ensure everyone has access to the eye care they need. We do this by training local eye teams, raising awareness of eye health within communities, and fighting to make blindness a priority of governments.

Thanks to your support and the great work of many of our partners we’ve come a long way, but there are challenges ahead. We must collaborate to build sustainable solutions for the future – so that every person can access the eye health they need, and no one goes blind simply because of where they were born.

Spotlight on Cameroon

This World Sight Day, our unique Flying Eye Hospital and world class volunteers are in Yaoundé, Cameroon, providing vital training to local eye health teams.

According to the new data, Cameroon has the fifth highest prevalence of blindness in the world. In a population of 23 million there are around 180,000 who are blind and 330,000 people who are visually impaired. Using global trends that equates to around 380,000 people who are blind or visually impaired needlessly.

In Cameroon, as well as globally, the leading cause of blindness is cataract. This is despite the fact that they can be treated with a routine operation that can take minutes and is one of the most cost-effective surgeries in the world.

Patient stories: treating Alexandre, Cameroon, for glaucoma

June 27, 2017

Alexandre, a 77-year-old gentleman from Cameroon, had terrible luck with his eyesight. The first incident occurred 15 years ago while working as a builder, when he was struck in the left eye by a hammer.
Read full story

Yet many people in Cameroon don’t have access to affordable or quality eye health services. One main issue is the number of health workers. Worldwide, there is an unequal distribution of eye health workers.

In Cameroon, there are 73 ophthalmologists – this is 3 per million people in the country. Many of these ophthalmologists reside in the two main cities of Yaoundé and Doula and many have limited surgical experience.

As a comparison, in the UK, there are 3,200 ophthalmologists. This is 50 per million people!

And it’s not just ophthalmologists – in Cameroon more ophthalmic nurses, community workers and optometrists are in strong demand.

Which is why, thanks to your support, we're currently in Cameroon training people from all sections of the eye care team.

Help fight avoidable blindness this World Sight Day

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