All of us have a right to see this beautiful world. But, for some 37 million people in the world, this is not possible as they are blind. Every five seconds, somebody in the world is losing sight. Can we do something to change this blinding statistic?
World Sight Day, which falls on October 8th, 2009, seeks to be an 'eye-opener' of sorts with its theme 'Gender and Eye Health' to ensure gender equality in the access of eye care services, which is unfortunately not the case in the world today. There is also a need to step up focus on visual impairment, blindness and rehabilitation of victims worldwide in the light of the VISION-2020 goals.
|80% of blindness can be prevented|
It is observed that men and women over 50 years of age are vulnerable to visual impairment. Nearly 90% of people who go blind are from the developing countries. The main causes of chronic blindness are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, trachoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Children could face problems in their vision due to deficiency of Vitamin A.
• Cataract accounts for the largest cause of blindness in the world. Close to 18 million are blind because of the condition. In India, cataract accounts for 62.6 percent of blindness.
• Six million people are blind due to Trachoma, a serious infection which could eventually cause the victim's eye lashes to turn inwards and hurt the eye with every blink.
• Vitamin A Deficiency has also resulted in nearly 1.5 million blind children. Another 500,000 may go blind every year if their diet is not spruced up.
• Refractive errors account for about 5 million people with impaired vision. Many of them continue to suffer low vision as they are unable to afford spectacles. These can be remedied with timely optical correction.
When 'preventable blindness' is not prevented....
It can wreak havoc on people's lives. More than 75% of adults who go blind cannot lead fulfilling lives; they cannot be employed and this can have a huge impact on their lives. For children who go blind, it is akin to nipping their life in the bud. Close to 90 % of blind children do not attend school, especially in developing and under developed countries.
At present 64% of blind people in the world are women and girls. Could it be due the fact that men have better access to eye care services as compared to women?
• Conditions like trachoma and cataract affect women more than men, notwithstanding their age.
• Access to eye care services for women and girls is not equal to that of men and boys; the fair sex does not approach eye-care services as much as men do.
• Women in many countries outlive men, and this could hold a clue for problems of age-related macular degeneration among them.
Women have 'Right to Sight'
Women need better access to eye care services. In many developing nations, eye care services for women are not on the health agenda. Health authorities in the national level need to recognize the existing gender differences in access to eye care services. This could be the first step to reducing the disparity in eye-care treatment for women.
Education and awareness about the causes of blindness must begin at the family level. Programs must be kick started at the district and community level as well. With respect to women, families and men folk must be educated about the significance of sight restoring operations / treatment for women, to help them get back their sight. Blind women cannot contribute to the well-being of the family with ease. Initially they will be tolerated and gradually find themselves becoming a liability to the family. With access to timely treatment women with impaired vision can bounce back and lead more fulfilling lives.
Let us not lose sight of what needs to be done to improve eye care services for women as with them rests the key to better and healthier families!