By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter
The Eastern Mediterranean region is home to the second largest number of people in the world with visual impairment, according to estimates.
There are a total of 285mn visually impaired people in the world - 246mn with low vision and 39mn are estimated to be blind.
About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries while 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured.
Also, 1.26mn children are blind and 19mn are visually impaired.
The top three causes of visual impairment are: refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma while top three causes of blindness are: cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Some 145mn people’s visual impairment is due to uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism).
“Our region is second after Africa on the list of regions with the highest number of visually impaired people because the number was quite high when compared to the entire population. But in terms of countries,” Dr Abdulaziz al-Rajhi, spokesperson for International Agency for the Protection of Blindness Eastern Mediterranean
Region, has said.
He was speaking on the sideline of a roundtable hosted yesterday by the Orbis Flying Hospital and was attended by the Countess of Wessex Princess Sophie.
Orbis, a non-profit humanitarian organisation that works in developing countries to save sight, prevents and treats blindness through hands-on teaching and training, public health education, improved access to treatment and quality eye care, as well as partnerships with local healthcare organisations in an effort to eliminate
Al-Rajhi said that the number of those with visual impairment due to diabetes retinopathy is quite high in the region.
“We have many people suffering visual impairment due retinopathy because they are diabetic,” he said. Diabetes retinopathy is a damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes, which can eventually lead to blindness if diabetics did not strictly follow their care schedule.
Other causes of visual impairment are: cataract (clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to a decrease in vision) and glaucoma (rising of fluid inside the eye).
Dr al-Rajhi said the region has been organising a yearly workshop in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office to promote awareness about the causes of visual impairment.
“Each year, we bring stakeholders and discuss issues concerning blindness such as diabetes, glaucoma and later come up with recommendations that we usually send to the ministries of health in our respective countries, asking them to implement,” he said.