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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid