Blindness in children

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7418.760 (Published 02 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:760
  1. Clare Gilbert (clare.gilbert@lshtm.ac.uk), senior lecturer,
  2. Haroon Awan (ssicopak@comsats.net.pk), country representative
  1. International Centre for Eye Health, Clinical Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. Sight Savers International, House No 2, Street 10, F-7/3, Islamabad, Pakistan

    Half of it is avoidable, and suitable cost effective interventions are available

    Childhood blindness is a priority of “Vision 2020—the Right to Sight,” a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness (http://www.v2020.org/), although only 1.4m blind children are included in the worldwide total of 45m blind people.1 2 There are several reasons for this. Blind children have a lifetime of blindness ahead, which affects their opportunities for education, employment, and earning potential. Early onset blindness adversely affects psychomotor, social, and emotional development. Blind children have a higher death rate than their sighted counterparts. An estimated 500 000 children become blind each year, but in developing countries up to 60% are thought to die within a year of becoming blind.2 Almost half of all blindness in children—particularly those in the poorest communities3—is due to avoidable causes that are amenable to cost effective interventions.

    The prevalence of blindness is higher in developing countries because, firstly, potentially blinding conditions such as vitamin A deficiency, harmful traditional eye remedies, or cerebral malaria, which do not occur in affluent societies, are prevalent there. Secondly, preventive measures for conditions that have been controlled elsewhere such as measles, congenital rubella, or ophthalmia neonatorum are inadequate. …

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