Khan Ferdousour Rahman
Our eyes and brain work together to see; but when this doesn't work the way it should, a person may be visually impaired, or blind. Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors. It is something most people do not like to think about. But the chances of becoming blind probably are greater than realization of someone. Out of seven billion global populations at present, about 285 million people are visually impaired. Among them 39 million are blind, out of which 19 million are children (aged between 1 to 15 years). That means someone in our world goes blind in every five seconds and a child in every minute.
'Vision 2020' the 'Right to Sight' programs, launched by World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999 together with more than 20 international NGOs involved on eye-care including prevention and management of blindness, is a global initiative that aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. This initiative seeks to raise awareness, mobilize resources and develop national blindness prevention programs with governments to prevent an additional 100 million people from becoming blind. Bangladesh ratified 'Vision 2020' in 2000.
Up to 80 percent of world's blindness is avoidable, i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable. These could be either treated or prevented by known, cost-effective means. Although there are many other causes of vision impairment, 'Vision 2020' seeks to address the main causes of avoidable blindness, in order to have the greatest possible impact on vision loss worldwide. The target disease areas for 'Vision 2020' are cataract, low vision, refractive error, childhood blindness and glaucoma.
About 90 percent of the world's visually impaired people live in developing countries and 60 percent of children die within a year of going blind. Again as the survivors spend roughly 40 years without sight, so blindness in children accounts for nearly one third of the global economic cost of blindness. Bangladesh has nearly 750,000 blind people, among them 600,000 are blind due to cataract; and 120,00 people are added in every year with that figure. Due to the deficiency of Vitamin A, the children of poor family is highly threatened to be blind. Children are also affected if suffering from diarrhea and nutrition deficiency. This costs the country US $ 480 million in care and lost man hours whereas the cost of prevention and care are a mere fraction.
Among the visually impaired people though females are more in the country, but two-third of them are deprived from eye-care facilities. According to the Blindness and Low Vision Prevalence Survey of Bangladesh, 85 percent of blindness in the country is due to cataract. Only three percent of the world's blind populations are children. A national study revealed that around 40,000 children are blind in Bangladesh and cataract is the commonest cause of child blindness in the country, which is around 31 percent. Visual impairment of a child limits participation in opportunities for education and self development. Over 90 percent blind children receive no schooling and few are able to realize their full potential.
The 'Right to Sight' programs address blindness in children as a major public health priority. Bangladesh is progressing towards the 'Vision 2020' goals, with the eradication of childhood blindness being one of the top 5 priorities. The country has prepared the 'National Eye Care Plan' under the leadership of the Bangladesh Council for the Blind, an apex body under the Ministry of Health and Family Planning, for implementation of 'Vision 2020'.
For preventable blindness of children, community based intervention is important and this can be decreased to a great extent if people's awareness can be increased. Bangladesh will proceed a step forward in achieving MDGs, if the blindness situation of the country can be improved. Two-third of cataract affected children of the world live in Asia. Here there are huge disparities for the facilities of cataract treatment between the rural and urban areas. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that theses facilities reach at the rural area for the treatment of the children.
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