World winning fight against blindness - WHO

The CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, Brian Doolan, has pointed to newly released World Health Organisation (WHO) figures as proof that avoidable blindness can be eliminated within a generation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) figures show the number of people suffering from blindness is decreasing.

WHO estimate that globally there are now less than 39 million people blind compared to previous estimates of around 45 million people in 2000.

Doolan said the figures show a perceived drop in blindness of around 5 million people but the true impact is much greater.     

“Not only have we stopped avoidable blindness in its tracks, we’ve beaten it back to ensure even more people can see,” Doolan said.

“A few years back the projections indicated we could have an extra 20 million people blind by now. That means if we did nothing to prevent or treat avoidable blindness, we could have up to 65 million people blind in the world today.

“Through a coordinated effort to improve eye health, the world has managed to save more than 20 million people from this fate and this has only been achieved because we acted.”

The figures have been released at the half way mark of a global initiative to achieve the elimination of avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The Fred Hollows Foundation is a member of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) which spearheads the VISION 2020 campaign to achieve this ultimate outcome.

The WHO study also found that the three greatest causes of blindness remain cataract, glaucoma and age related macular degeneration. A further 246 million people are said to be suffering from low vision, with uncorrected refractive error (the need for a pair of glasses) as the greatest contributor to this number.

“The figures WHO have released show that Fred Hollows’ 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,” Doolan said.
 
“3 out of 4 people who are blind don’t need to be. If we can get to them, we can fix them. 90% of them live in the developing world. There are still millions of people who need to be given access to eye care services which people in countries like Australia take for granted”..
 
 “If Fred was still alive to see these figures, I think he’d remind us that the job is only half done. I think he’d tell us to get back out there and finish the bloody job!”   
 
For interviews or more information phone The Fred Hollows Foundation: Andy Nilsen (ph) 02 8741 1960 or 0405 844 289; Email: anilsen@hollows.org
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