New figures show dramatic drop in blindness worldwide

The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed new figures showing that the number of blind people in the world has dropped dramatically.

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s David Britton says World Health Organization (WHO) preliminary estimates announced overnight in Geneva indicate millions of people have been saved from a life of blindness through improvements in health systems, particularly in the developing world.

“The World Health Organization has announced updated preliminary data that indicates the number of blind people worldwide is 39.8 million, compared with 45 million in 2004,” Britton says.

“That means there are five million less people who are blind. It’s a terrific result. And even more significant when you consider that a few years back the projections indicated we would have around an extra 20 million blind people by now. So we have not only stopped avoidable blindness in its tracks, we’ve beaten it back to ensure even more people can see.

“Through a coordinated effort to improve eye health, the world has managed to save more than 20 million people from blindness.

“The figures show that Fred’s dream of overcoming avoidable blindness is coming true. Together we are making it happen and this can be one of the truly great achievements or our generation.”

However Britton said that while the figures showed positive impact, they also outlined the job ahead.

“Sadly the overall figure is still too high. Three out of four people who are blind don’t have to be. We must continue to reach out to help those who don’t have access to surgery to overcome conditions such as cataract blindness.”

The World Health Organization announced the preliminary estimates on the eve of International World Sight Day, at a special meeting held at its Geneva headquarters. The meeting was held to review the VISION 2020 campaign, a partnership between WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, a peak group of organisations working in vision care. The VISION 2020 campaign seeks to improve eye health around the world, with the ultimate aim of overcoming avoidable blindness by 2020.

In 2009 The Fred Hollows Foundation, through the support of Australian donors, contributed to the global fight against avoidable blindness by restoring sight to 195,406 people in 18 countries. The operation to overcome cataract blindness can cost as little as $25 in some developing countries.

For more information – The Fred Hollows Foundation:

David Britton 0411 743 320 dbritton@hollows.org
Melanie Ridout 0425 424 556 mridout@hollows.org
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