WHO launches its first World Report on Vision

Posted on: Wednesday, 9th October, 2019

Ahead of World Sight Day on 10th October, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched its first World Report on Vision, highlighting that more than 1 billion people worldwide are living with vision impairment because they do not get the care they need for conditions like short and far sightedness, glaucoma and cataract.

The report found that ageing populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are among the main drivers of the rising numbers of people living with vision impairment.

It provides new data on the global magnitude of vision impairment, and seeks to generate greater awareness as well as increased political will and investment to strengthen eye care globally. CBM was delighted to contribute technical input to the report.

Dr Babar Qureshi, CBM’s Director of Inclusive Eye Health, says “We very much welcome this new WHO report and hope it will encourage governments around the world to strengthen eye health as part of their national health systems. At CBM, we have been advocating for inclusion in eye health for a long time, so we are particularly pleased that the report recognises the importance of improving access to eye care services for all members of the community, and of meeting the needs of people with untreatable vision impairment and blindness, including through rehabilitation services. It will be a powerful tool as we continue to work with our partners to develop quality inclusive and comprehensive eye health services across the world.

Kirsty Smith, CBM UK’s Chief Executive, says “This first WHO World Report on Vision marks a milestone in the fight against avoidable blindness, providing a much-needed comprehensive global picture of what's been achieved and where further work is needed, and CBM has been delighted to contribute our technical expertise towards it. We know that despite decades of work to improve access to eye-health, there are still millions of people worldwide needlessly losing their sight to conditions like cataracts - and in recent years we've seen new challenges emerging, such as increasing levels of diabetes-related sight loss and ageing-related visual impairment across the world. The impact of avoidable blindness is devastating, not just for individuals but for families and entire communities. The new data will help to shape the world of governments, NGOs and international bodies for the future, to help build a world where nobody is needlessly blind." 

The report is a key document for global eye health as it outlines the current situation and provides the roadmap for future priorities and interventions.

Its main findings are:

  • Globally, at least 2 billion people have vision impairment or blindness, of which over 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have yet to be treated.
  • Global demand for eye care is set to triple by 2050 because of population growth, ageing, and changes in lifestyle.
  • The burden weighs more heavily on low- and middle-income countries, on rural communities, older people, women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations.

The report estimates that US$14.3 billion is needed to address the backlog of 1 billion people living with vision impairment or blindness due to short and far sightedness, and cataracts.

A key recommendation is to scale up ‘people-centred eye care’ within national health services. This means that people receive a continuum of promotive, preventive treatment and rehabilitative care, addressing the full spectrum of eye conditions, which is in line with CBM’s core strategic aim of seeking full integration of CBM-supported eye health services into national health systems.

The report also highlights issues related to access to eye care services for people in many settings, due to high cost, transport difficulties, lack of awareness, and other factors that can be connected with, for example, disability, gender or age. Removing access barriers is crucial to reach all people who need services – something that CBM focuses on in all its eye care programmes.

Image: Eye examination at CBM-supported outreach in Rwanda. © CBM/Hayduk



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