There are about 45 million blind people in the world and a further 135 million with low vision. Of these, the majority (90%) lives in developing countries, and about 80% of the blindness is either easily treatable or avoidable. The treatments available for the prevention and cure of blindness are some of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Cataract forms the largest cause of blindness – about half. Childhood blindness is often a result of vitamin A deficiency, and although it makes up only about 10% of all cases of blindness, it results in the second largest “number of blind years” after cataract. Since it is young children who usually go blind due to vitamin A deficiency, they have many years to live as blind people. This form of blindness is irreversible, but is easily prevented if diagnosed early. Blindness causes huge human and socioeconomic consequences in society. The cost of lost productivity, rehabilitation and the education of blind people is a big burden for developing countries. In order to reduce and treat blindness, people need access to medical facilities. There is a need for trained eye care personnel, equipment and medications, and people need to be willing and able to access treatment. VISION 2020 is a global initiative collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The program enables all organizations involved in the prevention and treatment of blindness to work in a coordinated and focused way. One of the main elements of the VISION 2020 program is capacity development. This means the training of ophthalmologists and other eye health professionals to deliver eye care to a community. Traditional ophthalmology focuses on treating an individual. Community eye health addresses the eye needs of a whole population – how these can be assessed, resourced and evaluated.
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