The Problem

80% of blindness is avoidable

Worldwide Estimates

Over 285 million people in the world are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairment (WHO, 2011). It is predicted that, without extra interventions, these numbers will rise to 75 million blind and 200 million visually impaired by the year 2020 (WHO, 2010).

Among persons who are blind worldwide:

  • 58% are age 60+
  • 32% are ages 45-59
  • 7% are ages 15-44
  • 4% are age 14 or under (Thylefors, et al., 1995)
  • The number of people with partial sight today — 135 million — is expected to double by the year 2020 (Vision 2020, 2000).
  • About 80% of blindness is avoidable (preventable or curable), and 90% of the world’s blind live in a developing country (WHO, 2010).
  • Globally, about 85% of all visual impairment and 75% of blindness could be prevented or cured worldwide (WHO, 2010).
  • South East Asia and Western Pacific account for 73% of moderate to severe visual impairment and 58% of blindness (WHO, 2011).  (Source: http://www.lighthouse.org/research/statistics-on-vision-impairment/prevalence-of-vision-impairment/.)

These figures provide stark illustration of the pervasive problem of vision impairment and blindness, as well as their economic and social impacts.  There is a severe lack of recognition of the extent to which vision impairment and blindness are preventable or curable, especially through early detection and treatment.   The bottom lines are:  without intervention, the number of blind individuals is on course to increase dramatically; about 80% of blindness and vision impairment is avoidable; and children are affected by blindness and visual impairment, with significant, ongoing negative impacts on their educations and economic opportunities throughout their lives.  Lower-income children are disproportionately affected, pushing them even farther away from the doors of the equality elevators of education and of economic, civic, and social participation.