The World Sight Day is the most important advocacy and communications event on the eye health calendar. Observed annually on the second Thursday of October, it is a global event meant to draw attention on blindness and vision impairment. On this day, the World Blind Union (WBU) in collaboration with other organizations provide information through awareness raising regarding eye care. One of the priorities of WBU is to ensure the prevention of sight loss through advocacy for affordable and accessible eye health services as well as providing referrals.
Around 253 million people live with vision impairment worldwide, of which 36 million are blind. The vast majority live in low-income settings. More than 80% are aged 50 years or above. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors and un-operated cataract are the top two causes of vision impairment. More than 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured. Measures to do so should focus on increasing access to quality, comprehensive eye care services, especially at the community level (WHO)
The World Sight Day is therefore significant to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment, influence governments to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes and educate the public about blindness prevention.
Globally, cataracts and glaucoma are the leading causes of blindness. The defects include: long sightedness, short sightedness, low vision, most of which defects can be corrected through eye health interventions recommended by the world health organization, vision 2020 among others. The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health stipulated under the CRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) includes provision of accessible eye care services nearer to the community. This obligation has been accepted by about 174 states parties that ratified the Convention. However, this right manifests several challenges: There are very few eye care doctors, ophthalmologists and optometrists that provide eye care services in the communities across the world; Most of the families in the communities at both national and regional levels are not aware of the existing eye care services; These services are under funded by governments and are not available, accessible and affordable to the entire communities that need them; Eye glasses are too expensive for our communities to afford yet they need them.
During this World Sight Day celebrations, on October 11, the World blind Union provides the following advice and call for action:
- It is important for all children and adults to have their eyes screened once a year in order to avoid preventable causes of blindness.
- Governments should allocate appropriate budgets across the world to conduct the following activities: Construct vision corridors in the communities to enable village health teams and nurses to conduct eye health screening; conduct eye health services in schools to ensure that children receive them; conduct outreach clinics to provide eye care services; provide eye glasses at a subsidized cost; provide medical examination equipment in all hospitals and health centers; as well as encourage trainings of doctors, optometrists and ophthalmologists to improve their skills in eye health.
- WBU also encourages radio and television campaigns to sensitize the public about eye conditions and interventions.
If this is done, we are sure that governments would have met their obligation of providing eye care services to blind and partially sighted persons across the globe.
The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org
For further information, please contact:
Communications Officer, World Blind Union