MORE than one billion people are losing their sight because of a lack of simple eye care needed to address their conditions, according to a landmark report on vision by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report titled World Report on Vision was published on Tuesday ahead of the World Sight Day on October 10.
It noted that at least than 2.2 billion people globally live with vision impairment or blindness, of which 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed.
“Eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“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, he added”
The report outlined that ageing populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, were the main drivers of the rising numbers of people living with vision impairment.
It found out that the burden is high in low and middle-income countries, especially among rural dwellers.
“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, the report read partly.
Women were noted to be suffering from a higher rate of cataracts and trachomatous trichiasis when compared to males.
The major eye conditions highlighted to be causing blindness among people were cataracts, trachoma, refractive error, myopia, farsightedness and glaucoma.
In response to billions of people losing sight, the report recommended that countries should integrate eye care within national health services to ensure its prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation. It also added the need to monitor trends and evaluate progress towards implementing
integrated people-centred eye care.
“Millions of people have severe vision impairment and are not able to participate in society to their fullest because they can’t access rehabilitation services,” said Alarcos Cieza, who headed WHO’s work to address blindness.
But all people living with blindness who could not be treated, the report urged for their access to rehabilitation services which would help the individuals to lead independent lives. The services range from optical magnifiers and reading use Braille, to smartphone wayfinders and mobility training with white canes.