The Right To Sight – Part 2 [Archives:2001/19/Health]

May 7 2001


Mahfouth A Bamashmus
Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Ibn Al-Haitham Clinic
University of Science & Technology, Sana’a
[email protected]

Every 5 seconds one person in our world goes blind and a child goes blind every minute. If national and international efforts to avert blindness are not intensified, the number of people with severe visual disability will double by the year 2020. Our mission is to eliminate the main causes of blindness in order to give all people in the world, particularly the millions of needlessly blind, the right to sight.
Leading causes of blindness
4.Childhood Blindness
5.Nutritional Blindness
6.Refractive Errors and Low Vision

An estimated 20 million people in the world today are blind from cataract and five times that number are already in need of a cataract operation to restore full sight.
Cataract, a clouding of the lens of the eye which obstructs the passage of light, is by far the major cause of blindness worldwide. In most countries of Africa and Asia, cataract accounts for at least half of all blindness.
Cataract has different origins: occasionally some children can be born with the condition, and a cataract may develop after eye injuries. However, most cases are related to the ageing process.
As people in the world live longer, the number of people with cataract is growing. The treatment of cataract is an operation, which is very successful in restoring sight. Such operations are being performed in developing countries by international blindness agencies. Reducing the backlog of cataract-blind requires training of ophthalmic personnel and the provision of surgical supplies, which Vision 2020 will make possible.
Trachoma is one of the oldest infectious diseases known to mankind. It is responsible, at present, for 15% of the world’s blindness. Worldwide there are about 6 million people irreversibly blinded by trachoma and an estimated 146 million cases of active disease in need of treatment.
Today, trachoma is found mainly in poor rural areas of Africa, some countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia, and certain parts of Central and South America. Trachoma is still present in China and India and continues to affect indigenous Australians.
Trachoma is caused by Chlamydia Trachomatis – a microorganism which spreads through contact with eye discharge from the infected person (on towels, handkerchiefs, fingers, etc.) and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. After years of repeated infection, the inside of the eyelid may be scarred so severely that the eyelid turns inward and the lashes rub on the eyeball, scarring the cornea. If untreated, the condition leads to blindness.
It is a common sight in Africa to see children and adult family members blinded by onchocerciasis.
Onchocerciasis is often called “river blindness” because the black fly which transmits the disease abounds in fertile riverside areas, which frequently remain uninhabited for fear of infection. As a public health problem, the disease is most closely associated with West and Central Africa, and it is also prevalent in Yemen and 6 countries in Latin America.
Onchocerciasis has in the past greatly reduced the economic productivity in infected areas and left vast tracks of arable land abandoned. Much progress has been made in fighting the disease in several countries through control of the black-fly. The combined effort of the World Health Organization, non-governmental organizations and Vision 2020, will be effective in eradicating this disease.
Vision 2020 aims to prevent an additional 100 million men, women and children from becoming blind by the year 2020.
Reference: WHO launches Vision 2020 to combat avoidable blindness. Public. Health Rep. 1999