World Sight Day: new statistics highlight global inequalities

October 2017

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

These figures, published in the Lancet by the Vision Loss Expert Group, highlight startling inequalities around the world. At Orbis, we believe that no one should lose their sight because of where they were born.

This 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. That’s 253 million people who are living with visual impairment. HOW MANY AVOIDABLE?

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

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 our partners to fight avoidable blindness and ensure that everyone has access to the eye care they need. We do this by training local eye health 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 182,000 who are blind and 330,000 people who are visually impaired. 

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. 

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 andmany have limited surgical experience. 

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 andmany 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 we train the entire eye health team. 

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