AFRICAN UNION OF THE BLIND (AFUB)
UNION AFRICAINE DES AVEUGLES (UAFA)
For immediate release
Friday 15 October 2010, Nairobi, Kenya
Geneva, Monday 11 October 2010 –the World Health Organisation proudly announces a ten percent reduction in the number of visually impaired persons worldwide as an outcome of the WHO-led Vision 2020: The Right to Sight initiative. As a result, the world’s blind population alone has dropped from 45 million in 2004 to 39.8 million in 2010.
While we join Vision 2020 partners in taking pride in this decline as a milestone achievement on the road towards realizing Vision 2020, rightly chosen as a highlight of the 2010 World Sight Day celebrations, we cannot but remind ourselves that many countries in Africa are regrettably considered hotbeds for the propagation of avoidable blindness. Much has been achieved since the inception of the first Africa-wide blindness control program in the 70s; yet, in a continent where infectious diseases such as Onchocerciasis , or river blindness, has yet to be eradicated in 36 African countries, accounting for more than 90 percent of cases worldwide, where Trachoma still finds fertile breeding grounds in the overcrowded low hygiene urban and semi-urban slums or in the dry and dusty remote villages, in a continent where eye clinics are understaffed, underequipped, or, worse, underutilized –in a continent where about 10 million persons are needlessly blind, an accelerated, more global and better coordinated campaign is urgently needed if we were to achieve Vision 2020 of eliminating all causes of avoidable blindness.
We therefore recommend that:
- Vision 2020 be better tapped into as a platform that coordinates the efforts and interventions of different stakeholders in Africa. Numerous NGOs, professional groups, governments, health service providers of different missions, shades and scopes of interventions are operating in the continent and often within the same country or district without feeling the need to coordinate their work and avoid the pitfall of duplicating interventions and wasting time and resources;
- National eye care plans be imbedded in rights-based approach, while equally taking into consideration social inclusion, full participation in the community, and economic empowerment. Cataract for instance is a leading cause of blindness in Africa although a simple cataract operation takes 10 minutes on average and costs around US$25 in countries with double-digit populations living below the poverty line; and
- Countries who have developed national Vision 2020 eye care plans allocate adequate resources towards the implementation of these plans.
Last but not least, we urge the African to consider the relaunch of the Africa Campaign on Combating Child Blindness, which was to have been launched in 2007 in collaboration with the African Union of the Blind.
Acting Executive Director