Blindness : A Global Issue

Blindness and Visual Impairment

Globally, it is estimated that 285 million people are visually impaired of which 39 million of them are blind, including 1.4 million children under the age of 15. Another 246 million have reduced visual acuity. Source : World Health Organisation, WHO – August 2014

- The risk of blindness is five to ten times higher in the developing world than in industrialised countries. 90% of blind people live in a developing country (Source : Access Economics, March 2010). There are at least 7 million blind people in Africa, 9 million in India and 6 million in China ;
- Blindness mainly affects the elderly and, regardless of age, women are most at risk ;
- Cataracts are the primary cause of blindness in the world ;
- Visual impairment linked to age (age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy) is increasing even in countries in the developing world ;
- The correction of refractive based problems could offer normal sight to more than 12 million children and allow them to have a normal education.

These statistics are at risk of doubling between now and 2020, as a result of demographic growth and ageing populations, thus exacerbating the immense human tragedy which deprives so many individuals of one of their fundamental rights : the right to sight.

Put an end to avoidable blindness : a profitable investment

From a strictly financial view, blindness and visual impairment are said to have cost the global economy $2.3 trillion in 2010*. This estimate includes health spending, the value of the time spent caring for patients and the productivity loss, leading to a loss in tax revenue to support health systems. In Europe the cost has risen to 377 million euros, and the indirect costs to 134 billion euros.
*Access Economics, prepared for AMD Alliance International, ’The Global Economic Cost of Visual Impairment’, March 2010. All the costs take into account the value of the American dollar in 2008.

We know that is the loss of vision is treated or avoided, people can live more active lives and contribute to the economy and society as opposed to being looked after by them. People affected by visual impairments are more likely to be excluded from education, healthcare and other developing resources.

The poverty of a family is considerably aggravated by the loss or impairment of vision of one of the family members. In developing countries, the impact can be extreme and lead to unemployment, loss of income, debt, loss of land and social exclusion. A study on the effects of onchocerciasis on rural families in Guinea revealed that 21% of blind people were economically active compared to 62% of visually impaired people and 98% of people who see clearly.