Tuesday October 15, 2019

More than 2.2 Billion People Globally Suffer from Preventable Vision Problems

The World Health Organization reports people who live in rural areas, those who are poor, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities

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Globally, Vision, Problems
FILE - A woman gets an eye exam during a clinic at Key Arena, in Seattle, Washington, Oct. 28, 2016. VOA

The World Health Organization reports proper care could have prevented vision impairment or blindness in about half of the more than 2.2 billion people globally who suffer from these conditions. The findings were part of the WHO’s first World Report on Vision that was launched in Geneva in advance of World Sight Day Oct. 10.

The report attributes the increase in worldwide eye problems to an aging population, changing lifestyles, which are leading to a rise in type 2 diabetes, and limited access to eye care in low- and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organization reports people who live in rural areas, those who are poor, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities are among those who suffer most from bad vision.

Technical officer in the WHO’s Prevention of Blindness and Deafness Department, Stuart Keel, says conditions such as shortsightedness and farsightedness, glaucoma and cataracts are about four times higher in the world’s poorer regions than in high-income regions.

 

Globally, Vision, Problems
The report attributes the increase in worldwide eye problems to an aging population, changing lifestyles, which are leading to a rise in type 2 diabetes, and limited access to eye care. Pixabay

“For instance, western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa have vision impairment rates [and] distance vision impairment rates that are eight times higher than all high-income regions. … We know that about 60 percent of all vision impairment cases are found in three Asian regions alone, that being South Asia, East Asia, and South-East Asia,” said Keel.

The WHO says cataract surgery could prevent 65 million people from becoming blind. It says early diagnosis and treatment can improve conditions for many of the 76 million people suffering from glaucoma. And eyeglasses, it says, could vastly improve the eyesight of more than 800 million people who currently live with blurred vision.

Coordinator of the WHO’s Prevention of Blindness and Deafness Department, Alarcos Cieza, told VOA that research indicates that children who spend too much time on their electronics are likely to become visually impaired as they grow older.

“The major concern is that if children do not spend enough time outdoors and too much time indoors looking at their tablets and computers and these activities … they will increase the probability of becoming myopic and also to increase the severity of the myopia,” she said.

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Cieza warns that the more severe the myopia, the more difficult the treatment. Her advice: Children should spend more time outdoors kicking a ball around and less time indoors looking at tablets, television and computers. (VOA)

Next Story

Water Pollution Threatens Nearly All Globally Agreed Development Goals

This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide

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Water Pollution, Globally, Development
FILE - A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish in polluted water off Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon, June 23, 2019. VOA

Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned in a report Tuesday, citing the largest-ever database on the world’s water quality.

The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike.

“This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide,” said Richard Damania, World Bank economist and one of the study’s authors.

“The world tends to focus on water quantity such as floods and droughts, but this report focuses on the more invisible threats — the effects of pollutants impacting global water quality,” Damania said.

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned. Pixabay

The 193 United Nations member states agreed on Sept. 25, 2015, to a lofty 15-year agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets aimed at helping everyone live healthier, more prosperous lives on a cleaner planet.

SDG 6 refers to clean water and sanitation for all, but the U.N. World Water Development Report found about three out of 10 people — 2.1 billion — did not have access to safely managed drinking water at home in 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, coverage was only 25 percent.

“Chemical contamination such as arsenic in Bangladesh, mercury in Maputo and fluoride in parts of Kenya are major concerns,” said Neil Jeffery, the CEO of water rights group Water Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

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“Clean water brings dignity. Entire communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with a lack of basic water and sanitation impacting health, school attendance and livelihoods,” Jeffery told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Information key

The World Bank report used satellite data and artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze nitrogen, salt and oxygen levels — water health markers — of water globally.

“Pollution affects countries both rich and poor. It is just the cocktails of chemicals that change,” Damania said. “Plastics and pharmaceutical contaminants are problems everywhere.”

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike. Pixabay

Ripple effects of consuming pollutants include childhood stunting, infant mortality, lowered economic activity and food production.

“Information is the first step,” said Damania, in league with water rights groups.

By way of example, Jeffery cited that “informed consumers can make decisions to keep rubbish out of waterways.”

And they can pressure corporations and government “to take the challenge seriously,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at the Water Management Institute (WMI).

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The report said that the scale of the problem meant there is “no silver bullet,” but Damania remains optimistic that “social movements, political and corporate will and new technologies” could still save the threatened resource. (VOA)