Blindness is a wide-reaching problem across the whole world, which in so many cases can actually be reserved. About 285 million people around the world are visually impaired, for 80% of these people their condition could have been avoided or can have their condition cured.
In developing countries, the effect of blindness is far more impinging than in developed countries, and almost 90% of those affected by poor sight can no longer work. As they are no longer able to contribute to their family or society their status is reduced. For example, 80% of women experiencing levels of blindness have been recorded to lose authority in their families. The individual who is affected becomes totally dependent and if their family are unable to support they then become neglected. Life expectancy among the blind in developing countries is reported to reduce by one third. With such damaging outcomes for conditions that can be avoided, the work of charities and NGOs who focus on reducing the levels of world blindness is becoming more and more important.
The majority of cases are reported in the Western Pacific, Africa, and South-East Asia, where uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts are the main causes of blindness. These conditions can be easily fixed but funding remains an issue. Positively, over the last 20 years, the numbers of the visual impaired caused by disease has decreased.
Organisations like Himalayan Cataract Project, World Cataract Foundation, and Sightsavers run programmes all over the world to help heal the blind, operate on cataracts and supply glasses to the visually impaired. In Nepal, where 70% of blindness is caused by cataracts and therefore can be healed, the Himalayan Cataract Project runs the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu. It is their base for all their projects in Asia. They work constantly to restore sight to the backlog of 200,000 or so people that are currently affected by cataracts. The HPC also works in Northern India and Ghana. In these mountainous regions, they have also developed partnerships with manufacturers such as Oakley sunglasses to try and provide a cheap solution to combat the extremely high levels of UV. Despite the higher natural resistance of the people here, the deteriorating atmospheric conditions around the world mean that more and more UV enter at higher altitudes, and therefore affects more people’s sight.
Sightsavers run projects all over the world, and last year alone they treated 8 million people and supported 359,323 eye operations. They protected 23 million people in Africa against river blindness and trained 152,585 primary eye care workers. A lot of their work is focussed in Africa. The World Cataract Foundation provide volunteer surgery teams and free cataract surgery to disadvantaged people in 25 countries. They have a special partnership with China to help reduce the high rate of cataracts there.
The World Health Organisation says that visual impairment has increased since the 1990s, which is largely thanks to the work by charities and NGOs, however, the WHO will continue to build on local efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness.