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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid