Coordinated and sustained efforts are the need of the hour to improve eye health services aimed at preventing blindness, and the laidback attitude to tackle this phenomenon is bound to leave millions losing their eyesight, says Munazza Gillani, Country Director of Sightsavers Pakistan.
Munazza Gillani, Country Director of Sightsavers Pakistan Country Office says: “Eighty percent of blindness loss is preventable or treatable, but as a result of lack of quality eye care services and awareness in general population about eye health many people don’t get the care they need. Blindness turns into a permanent disability leading to less access to education and employment, loss of material wealth and social status. That is why individuals and households affected by blindness are more likely to be below the poverty line, and disability increases the risk of being poor. Therefore, it is very important for Pakistan to align all future eye health programmes and plans with these international commitments and priorities of eye health delivery”.

According to the WHO, over 2.2 billion people have a visual impairment, with four times as many people affected in low and middle-income countries. But almost half of vision impairment is preventable or treatable. However, the number of blind people could triple to around 115 million people by 2050 if preventive measures are not taken on emergency basis. It is estimated that the productivity loss of visual impairment and blindness is $410.7 billion globally each year.
“It is very important for Pakistan to align all future eye health programmes and plans with international commitments and priorities of eye health service delivery,” Munazza Gillani said, adding that prevalence of blindness could be further reduced, if everyone played their part.

Munazza Gillani adds, “We are pleased to have supported the development of the national programme for eye health with the Government and worked hand in hand with them. We look forward to building on this by working with them to increase eye care provision for all and reduce the burden of eye disease”.

To mark World Sight Day, Sightsavers has supported the National Assembly of Pakistan to translate the country’s constitution into Braille and so make it accessible for people with visual impairment.
Challenges in accessing eyecare services in Pakistan include poverty, scarce eyecare facilities located in urban areas mostly and are inaccessible particularly for persons with disabilities. Further, for a range of socio-economic, epidemiological and demographic reasons, women have a higher prevalence of cataract with around 63% of blindness burden. Cataract surgical rates are lower amongst women than men.
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