World Sight Day is observed on the second Thursday of October every year. It is an annual day of awareness, focussed to raise global attention on blindness and vision impairment, and to increase support for eye health programs and services.
It is an initiative of 'VISION 2020: The Right to Sight' which is a joint undertaking of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). 'VISION 2020: The Right to Sight' is a global initiative which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
AdvertisementThe first World Sight Day was commemorated on October 8, 1998. This year's World Sight Day is on October 8, 2015. The theme for World Sight Day 2015 is 'Eye Care for All'.
About 39 million people worldwide are blind and 246 million live with moderate or severe visual impairment. The WHO statistics suggest that the world's population is aging and people are living longer than before. But, blindness from chronic conditions is also rising. About 65% of the world's blind people are aged over 50 years.
It is estimated that over seven million people become blind every year, and up to 80% of these cases are avoidable i.e. they either result from preventable eye conditions (20%) or they are readily treatable (60%).
Many age-related conditions leading to blindness such as cataract, refractive error and glaucoma can also be treated easily. Timely intervention can often delay or reduce their effects on an individual's vision. However, about 90% of blind people live in low-income countries, where older people and especially older women often face difficulties to get the necessary eye health care.
With the help of local communities, associations such as the Lions Club, and non-government organizations, the WHO and IAPB promote the day for the following purposes:
- To raise public awareness on the prevention and treatment of blindness.
- To raise awareness on the importance of eye health care and the need for providing quality eye care services for all.
- To influence governments to designate funds for national blindness prevention programs.
- To educate target audiences and to generate support for VISION 2020 and its activities.
On the occasion of World Sight Day 2015, the IAPB urges people to focus on everybody who need eye care services, especially the most vulnerable or the ones most in need. The causes of avoidable blindness is frequently associated with extreme poverty and lack of access to primary eye care services. Providing quality access to eye care will reduce the magnitude of avoidable blindness.
The IAPB urges organizations and eye care professionals to ensure that access to eye care is not limited by gender or geographic location, or even financial status. It has also suggested that 'Eye Health' not only means prevention or treatment of avoidable blindness, but also includes rehabilitation and providing assistive services for visually impaired people with irreversible vision loss.
Thus, the annual World Sight Day highlights the importance of good vision for everyone and the limiting effects that uncorrected vision impairment can have on people's lives. Several events will take place across the world to mark this occasion.