WHO Launches its first World Report on Vision

Happy 4-year-old Yazid in the arms of his mother, Ladifatou (30)

Four-year-old Yazid sustained an injury and later an eye infection from an accident at home while playing with his siblings. At a CBM partner eye hospital in Cameroon, Yazid is receiving treatment. He is very happy that the pain is gone, and that he can see again with his right eye. ©CBM

Ahead of World Sight Day on 10th October, the World Health Organisation (WHO), today launches its first World Report on Vision. 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.

This 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 2.2 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.

The report states that all people living with blindness and severe vision impairment who cannot be treated are still able to lead independent lives if they access rehabilitation services. However, current coverage of rehabilitation services is poor in most countries.

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.
Dr. Babar Qureshi, CBM’s Director of Inclusive Eye Health