Communications Manager, LCIF
A 2010 study just released by the World Health Organization, shows that blindness and visual impairment has been reduced globally by nine percent, or 26 million people, since 2004. Through SightFirst, Lions have had a significant role in this achievement.
The study shows that the prevalence of visual impairment has been significantly reduced from 311 million in 2004 to 285 million in 2010. Of these, 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairment, while an estimated 39 million people are blind, compared with 314 million with moderate to severe visual impairment and 45 million blind in 2004.
This impressive and important milestone accomplishment could not have been possible without the dedication and investment of non-governmental organizations, including Lions and Lions Clubs International Foundation, as well as partners, governments, and ministries of health. Through SightFirst, for example, Lions are investing US$415 million to fight the leading causes of blindness.
In the world’s most populous countries with the greatest number of visually impaired and blind people, blindness has been greatly reduced. In China, there are 1 million less blind people and in India blindness has been reduced by 2 million people. Blindness in Africa has been reduced by seven percent since 2004.
These achievement are even more remarkable given that the number of people over 50 years old – the age group most affected by visual impairment – continues to grow rapidly, increasing by 14 percent in the past five years.
“Lions have long been champions for the blind and visually impaired, and we are proud of helping reduce this global burden,” said LCIF Chairperson Eberhard J. Wirfs. “However, we must continue and redouble our efforts. Of the 285 million visually impaired people, 80 percent of these cases could be cured, treated or prevented in the first place.”
Challenges remain to achieve the goal of eliminating the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The top three causes of blindness in the 2010 estimates are cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, while uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause for moderate to severe visual impairment. This highlights the recent trend towards a decline in infectious diseases, while chronic diseases, which affect both the developed and the developing world, are rising steeply.
Lions remain committed to fighting the leading causes of preventable blindness. With funds raised through Campaign SightFirst II, Lions are increasing programs to fight new and emerging threats to sight, while funding new projects aimed at research and rehabilitation.
To read more information on the study, visit the World Health Organization Web site.
Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world with 1.35 million members in 207 geographic areas and countries. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times' study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Through SightFirst, LCIF has restored sight or saved the vision of 30 million people. Learn more about LCIF at www.lcif.org.