Individuals, households below poverty line are more likely to be affected by blindness

Zubair Qureshi

Almost 80% of blindness is avoidable and if immediate action is not taken millions of people would be pushed to permanent loss of vision.

These views were expressed by Munazza Gillani, Country Director of Sightsavers Pakistan on the eve of the World Sight Day being observed on Oct 14 (today).

She called for coordinated and sustained efforts to improve eye health services aimed at preventing blindness, and the laidback attitude to tackle this phenomenon is bound to leave millions losing their eyesight.

“Blindness turns into a permanent disability leading to less access to education and employment, loss of material wealth and social status,” further said Ms Gillani adding, perhaps this is the reason that individuals and households affected by blindness are more likely those who are below the poverty line.

Disability increases the risk of being poor, she said, referring to the World Health Assembly resolution, adopted in August 2020, that urges all member states to implement the recommendations of the WHO’s World Report on Vision.

The report specifically recommends for; making eye care an integral part of universal health coverage; and implementation of integrated people-centred eye care, where people and communities are at the centre within health systems.

Therefore, it is very important for Pakistan to align all future eye health programmes and plans with these international commitments and priorities of eye health delivery”.

According to the WHO, over 2.2 billion people have a visual impairment, with four times as many people affected in low and middle-income countries. But almost half of vision impairment is preventable or treatable.

However, the number of blind people could triple to around 115 million people by 2050 if preventive measures are not taken on an emergency basis. It is estimated that the productivity loss of visual impairment and blindness is $410.7 billion globally each year.

“It is very important for Pakistan to align all future eye health programmes and plans with international commitments and priorities of eye health service delivery,” Munazza Gillani said, adding that prevalence of blindness could be further reduced, if everyone played their part.

About Sightsavers Pakistan’s contributions, she said it worked hand in hand with the government in its initiatives for supporting the visually-impaired and other programmes.

We look forward to building on this by working with them to increase eye care provision for all and reduce the burden of eye disease, she said.

To mark the World Sight Day, Sightsavers has supported the National Assembly of Pakistan to translate the country’s constitution into Braille and so make it accessible for people with visual impairment, she further said.

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