Globally, it is observed that preventable blindness is on the rise. Preventable blindness is defined as blindness which results from the conditions that could have been prevented or controlled if the available interventions had been timely applied, or it can be successfully treated with the sight restored. Vision impairment and age-related eye diseases affect the economic and educational opportunities, reduce the quality of life and increase the risk of death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 80 per cent of global blindness is avoidable. According to a report in the Lancet Global Health, researchers have predicted that the cases of blindness shall rise to 115 million by 2050, if treatment is not improved by better funding.
Estimating the magnitude of the problem, major focus and concert international efforts were made to combat avoidable blindness. Hence, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness was launched in 1999. This global initiative was a joint programme of the WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). The aim of this initiative was to promote a world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired and where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential. The goal is to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020.
Being aligned with the global vision of delivering “Right to Sight”, India is committed to reduce the burden of preventable blindness by the year 2020 by adopting strategies advocated by Vision 2020. However, in reality, we are far from achieving this ‘ambitious’ target. According to a study published in the Global Estimates of Visual Impairment, India was home to about 20.5 per cent of the world’s blind, 22.2 per cent of the world’s low-vision population, and 21.9 per cent of those with vision impairment. Further, as per the WHO estimates, around 40 million people in India, including 1.6 million children, are blind or visually impaired due to refractive error.
Therefore, all stakeholders need to take concerted efforts to drive away the preventable blindness by 2020.