News / Africa

Preventable and Reversible Blindness Goes Untreated in sub-Saharan Africa

Health specialists say lack of vitamin A can cause blindness in children (Light for the World)Health specialists say lack of vitamin A can cause blindness in children (Light for the World)
x
Health specialists say lack of vitamin A can cause blindness in children (Light for the World)
Health specialists say lack of vitamin A can cause blindness in children (Light for the World)

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
October 10 marked World Sight Day.  The World Health Organization reported that two-thirds of blind children die within two years following their loss of eyesight.

In addition, the organization said 39 million people worldwide are blind, and another 246 million people live with moderate or severe visual impairments. 

Light for the World, a Europe-based N-G-O dedicated to eye health and community-based rehabilitation, is working to demystify some of the causes of blindness, especially in developing nations, where there is a lack of specialized hospitals, eye specialists and medication.  In addition, the groups said 80% of all cases of blindness in developing countries can be treated or prevented.

“The main reason for blindness in developing countries is cataract.  It’s a form of blindness which can be healed during a very simple operation which lasts only 15 minutes and can restore the eyesight,” explained Gabriel Muller, director of public relations and international alliances for Light For the World.

Muller said that cataracts usually affect older people, but it can also be congenital.

“In sub-Saharan African countries, we do not know the reason why, but it’s coming much earlier than in industrialized countries.  Scientists think that it’s a mixture of malnutrition, sanitation, maybe even the [lack of protection from the] sun in these countries, so cataracts develop much earlier,” said Muller.

He added that people living in and near the capitals of cities in sub-Saharan Africa do have access to treatment for cataracts but cannot afford the operation.

However, Light for the World and other humanitarian organizations are working to put into place infrastructures that will enable poor patients and those living in remote areas to receive treatment for their blindness.  However, as of now there remains a very big backlog of patients needing treatment for cataracts.

Muller also pointed out that children who are malnourished or who are suffering from infectious diseases are deficient in vitamin A, leading to irreversible loss of eyesight.

“In urgent cases, after famine, and infectious diseases like measles, they need a high dose of vitamin A which is usually part of the national health plan, and distributed by field workers,” explained Muller.  He added that in more ordinary cases, workers must go to the communities to educate mothers on how to feed their children the most nutritious foods, such as spinach, green vegetables and mangos which are rich in vitamin A.

In addition to improving the diets of children to avoid blindness, another area in need is increased staffing of specialized medical professionals.

“There is a terrible situation regarding the number of medical specialists compared with the population.  In Europe, one opthamologist  (eye doctor), has to care for ten thousand people.  In sub-Saharan Africa, it is one opthamologist for every one million people, and in remote areas, it is one to every five million persons,” pointed out Muller.

He said the lack of eye specialists in sub-Saharan Africa is causing a very large number of people to become – or remain -- blind unnecessarily.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs