Blindness in developing countries... By Qudrat
06 February, 2013
It is a matter of great concern that blindness is on the rise all over the world with 90 percent of the world's blind living in developing countries. Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries in the world which has, hitherto, failed to take measures to effectively combat this otherwise curable disease.
According to the National Blindness Prevalence Survey 2006, the magnitude of blindness in Pakistan is estimated at 1.49 to 1.54 million people. Similarly, eight million adults and three million children are suffering from various forms of visual impairment. The survey also disclosed that approximately 70 percent of the people affected by blindness live in remote areas and are unable to travel to big cities for medical services. Due to the lack of necessary infrastructure, coupled with old medical technology at tehsil and district level hospitals, poorly maintained equipment and absence of a credible referral chain system along with lack of motivation, advocacy, awareness or monitoring and an evaluation system, all these have played a role in compounding the problem of blindness in our country.
Another cause is that there is no system for the prioritisation of need, whether it is sufferers from glaucoma, cataracts or diabetes-related blindness. This alarming situation requires consistent efforts to curb this threat so that affected people can see this beautiful world with open eyes. The medical fraternity should join hands with the government sector to help treat this disease. It is important to note that blindness is mostly associated with poverty in Pakistan; lesser access to eye care services is a major contributory factor. To reduce blindness, targeting poor people is needed to change their food habits and lifestyles. These interventions, if implemented well, will have a definite impact on health-related deprivations in our country where continued load shedding and a sagging economy have rendered millions of people jobless and hopeless.
In Punjab, the collaborative efforts of the College of Ophthalmology and Allied Vision Sciences, King Edward Medical University, Lahore and international donors are excellent examples of sharing the collective responsibility. World renowned donors like the Fred Hollows Foundation (Australia) and Sight Savers International, UK are playing a commendable role in this crusade to reach out to the unreachable. It is important to point out that Pakistan's government prepared the first National Plan for the Prevention and Control of Blindness in 2005 together with international donors. It was the first serious and planned study of the problem in this country where blindness is usually ignored. The fight against blindness is a continuous effort requiring participation from all segments of society. Corporate and development sectors should also come forward to help cure blindness.
Similarly, religious scholars should also sensitise people about eye donations in the light of Islamic injunctions. The media should sensitise people about eye donations so that the blind around us can see again. We need to learn from a small developing country like Sri Lanka, which is the biggest eye donor in the world. It provides gratis eye donations to as many as 57 countries in the world including Pakistan.