“Make Vision Count”
With nearly 300 million people around the world estimated to be blind or visually impaired, the World Blind Union (WBU) welcomes this year’s World Sight Day call to “Make Vision Count”. World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual international day held on the second Thursday of October, to raise public awareness about the prevention and treatment of loss of vision. This year, the World Sight Day will be marked on 12 October 2017.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 285 million people are visually impaired, of those 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings while 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above. Due to growing populations and ageing, these numbers are expected to escalate by the year 2020.
WHO estimates that 80% of all visual impairments can be prevented. Prevention and treatment of vision loss are among the most cost-effective and successful of all health interventions. However, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment. Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
Recognising blindness and visual impairment as a human rights issue, the World Blind Union (WBU) is strongly calling on governments to honour their commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) principles which seek to protect fundamental rights of persons with disabilities. States which have ratified the Convention and committed to the SDGs are bound to ensure that persons with disabilities have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination.
The CRPD affirms that state parties shall “Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons”.
The World Blind Union is therefore asking governments to allocate sufficient budgets for health care and ensure that people with disabilities, particularly those living with blindness and low vision, have full access to affordable and quality health services, assistive devices as well as habilitation and rehabilitation services. Governments must also provide early identification and intervention services needed to minimize and prevent avoidable blindness.
In addition, WBU is urging governments to ensure availability, knowledge and use of assistive devices and technologies designed for persons with blindness and low vision, such as eye glasses, braille and white cane. Furthermore, it is important for governments to provide continuing training for professionals and staff working in health services, and ensure that these services are accessible especially in rural areas.
WBU is also challenging states parties to the CRPD and SDGs to provide frequently updated data indicating their progress in tackling health issues and the well being of people with disabilities, especially women and children living with blindness and low vision.
The World Blind Union envisions a world where people who are blind or partially sighted are empowered to participate on an equal basis in any aspect of life they choose. As we commemorate the World Sight Day, WBU embraces VISION 2020, a global initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness, which is a programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).
The World Blind Union represents the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.
For further information, please contact:
Terry Mutuku, Communications Officer, World Blind Union