Over one billion people are at risk of losing their sight, the vast majority in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report from the WHO, which urges that many of these people could be saved from vision loss with basic eye care. Ethnic minorities, women, and the elderly are particularly likely to live with untreated, preventable visual impairment.
- Overall around 2.2 billion people around the world are currently living with some form of impaired vision, the report notes, including 196 million with age-related macular degeneration and 146 million with diabetic retinopathy.
- Within this figure, at least one billion are suffering vision loss that could have been prevented. This number includes 123.7 million with unaddressed refractive error, and 65.2 million with cataracts.
- A large majority of people living with untreated, preventable vision impairment live in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Closing the gap in treatment of refractive error and cataracts would cost around $14.3 billion in immediate additional costs. However the payoff in terms of saved productivity for nearly 200 million people would presumably be much higher.
- The Guardian quotes WHO director general Dr. 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.”