Campaign: Global Citizen News

75% of blindness is preventable or treatable - here's how we stop it

Recent figures published by the Lancet show 36 million people are blind yet 75% of blindness is preventable or treatable.

Cataract, which takes just 10 minutes to treat and costs as little as £30, is the leading cause of preventable blindness.

This video shows speeded up footage of a cataract operation in process, but for many people in the world this simple intervention is out of reach.

To address this need, in 2014 Sightsavers launched its Million Miracles campaign to help provide a million cataract operations to adults and children across Africa and Asia. More than 940,000 operations have already been carried out – and until 9 January every £1 people donate to Sightsavers will be matched by the UK government through the UK Aid Match scheme, bringing the goal of the millionth operation tantalisingly close.

The money will be used to fund operations in Bangladesh and Pakistan where there is much need. For instance, in Pakistan 7% of people over 50 are blind, compared to just 0.4% of over 50-year-olds in the UK.

It will go towards helping people like Kausar, a 52-year-old from rural Pakistan who started losing her sight several years ago. Initially, she and her husband Shaukat couldn’t take time out from their chapati making business to get treatment as they needed every rupee to support their large family. Although it’s a stunning setting, life seems is difficult in Kaurar’s village – the lake where they wash clothes is half an hour’s walk away, the forest they collect wood for the oven and cooking is another half hour on and their nearest market is 20 minutes down the mountain in a tuk tuk. Without sight it’s next to impossible.

Dr Khalid Ashraf is head of Mandra hospital in Pakistan near where Kausar lives. It is one of 20 hospitals in Pakistan run by Sightsavers’ partner LRBT, dedicated to providing free eye care. Every day, Mandra hospital receive between 300 and 400 patients seeking treatment, and they conduct around 60 surgeries, 6 days a week – just in one hospital. The vast majority of LRBT’s patients can’t afford to make any contribution to their care and government provision of eye care is distinctly lacking, so without donations it will be impossible for these people to get their sight back.

Dr Khalid describes the impact sight loss can have on someone's life: “A person who becomes blind or visually impaired, his whole family is affected because usually there is only one person who is earning, and if he is unable to carry out his job the whole family suffers, and suffers a lot.

“So when he gets treatment and he can see – that person who was not able to do anything, was sitting at home – now he can earn a living for his family. That changes their whole life. That’s very valuable for them, and for us also, very rewarding and satisfying.”

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