Thursday, October 8, 2009

29 Million Women Blind Globally

29 Million Women Blind Globally As the world celebrate World Sight Day , 29.25 million women have been reported blind globally according to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO). “Out of the purported 45 million blind people worldwide, women account for about 65 per cent, which is 29.25 million,” Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris said, at a news conference to mark the Day, adding that another 269 million people were visually impaired, while 85 per cent of these people suffers from avoidable blindness that could either be prevented, or treated and cured. The Commissioner explained that a further breakdown of the world blindness statistics shows that about 2/3 or 65 per cent of the people are women, most of whom are the elderly who live in developing countries and are more often than not ignorant of the avoidable problems that lead to their getting blind. The theme of this year’s World Sight Day is Gender and Sight-Equal Access to Care. The theme evolved as a result of the fact that more women are blind worldwide and are prone to blindness due to ignorance. “Most of these women are blind from correctable cataract blindness. Cost ordinarily is a significant primary barrier to the use of cataract surgical services. As a result, Lagos State is addressing this issue by offering the elderly free cataract surgical services in our hospitals. Blindness due to cataract alone can be reduced by 11 per cent if women were to receive cataract surgery at the same rate as men. “As the world marks the World Sight Day, the need for all stakeholders to reach-out to women and girls in our communities with a view to counselling families to take informed decisions and ensure that the needs of women and girls are not neglected for cultural and economic reasons has been stressed. “Above all, adopting approaches to improve the use of eye care centres by women and girls will not only reduce gender inequity, as a millennium development goal in blindness and vision loss, but will also have a significant benefit to the family, to the community and to the society at large. “Go out there and help women overcome blindness. Men should gear up towards removing the barriers that have been preventing women from accessing eye care centres in form of advice, encouragement, financial support among other, while women on their part should endeavour to seek information about eye care services in order to know what to do about avoidable eye problems that usually lead to blindness. Idris also disclosed that 2.8 million people are blind in the South-West zone of the country, adding that in Lagos State, the government had put machinery in motion to curtail the rate at which people are going blind. “The state government’s commitment towards its community outreach programme involves free eye screening, free glasses, free medications and free surgeries. To date, over 235,500 people have benefited from the programme, which has covered all the local government and local council development areas in the state,” he added. According to the commissioner, of the 235,500 people who had benefited from the programme, 25,541 were screened at the primary eye care units, 99,000 were given free eye glasses, while 15,270 people had free eye surgeries done to restore their vision. He disclosed that all functional Primary Health Centres in the state have primary eye care facilities for vision screening, eye health education, free treatment for conjunctivitis and a referral system to secondary eye units concerning the particular catchments area. “In the same vein, seven of our general hospitals have been equipped to investigate and manage cataract and glaucoma, while dedicated Eye Institute at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital is rendering the necessary tertiary eye care services needed in the state. All the primary eye care units have their eye care kits, the secondary units have the necessary equipment, and the tertiary centre will be able to carry out more complex surgical operations that cannot be handled by other levels of the eye care units,” Dr. Idris noted.

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