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The prevalence of blindness and sight among people aged 50 and over in Pakistan has dropped significantly, as new data shows that this ratio has fallen to just 2% from 7% recorded in 2004, More than 9 million people are visually impaired in Pakistan, reveals the Third National Blindness Survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health.

“About 44,800 people aged 50 and above were included in the survey conducted in 16 different districts (2,800 people from each district) randomly selected from all provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. prevalence of blindness adjusted for age and sex was 2.02% with a higher prevalence in females than males at 2.07 and 1.98 respectively,” Prof. Asad Aslam revealed. Khan (Sitara-e-Imtiaz), National Blindness Prevention Program Coordinator Pakistan, and Chairman of the National Committee for Eye Health, while announcing the results of the survey, conducted from 2019-21, during a ceremony held in Islamabad on Tuesday.Prof Asad Aslam Khan said the aim of the survey was to estimate the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment among people aged 50 and over and identify the major causes of blindness and visual impairment in this population, because 80% of all blindness occurs in the elderly. 50 years and over. According to the survey, there are 9,028,073 people in Pakistan who have some degree of visual impairment, from mild to blind. Of these, 484,027 are blind compared to 1.5 million blind according to the 2004 survey). Over 9 million people are visually blindness due to cataracts reduced from 55% of total blindness to 49%. Dr. Shazia Somroo, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, and Dr. Shabana Saleem, Director General of the Ministry of Health, among representatives of NGOs, INGOs and other stakeholders were present at the ceremony. Professor Asad Aslam, who is also Emeritus Professor at the College of Ophthalmology and Allied Vision Sciences, said the survey linked blindness to untreated contracture (49%), glaucoma, l corneal opacity, uncorrected aphakia, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, while the main cause of visual impairment was refractive error (11.9%). Based on the results of the 2nd survey 2004, the National Committee for Eye Health (NCEH, Federal Ministry of Health, prepared and executed two five-year national plans for the prevention of blindness in collaboration with international NGOs (Sightsavers International UK, CBM Germany, Fred Hollows Foundation Australia, Brien Holden Foundation Australia), Aids to Leprosy, WHO, National NGOs (Alshifa Trust, LRBT, Al Ibrahim and Taxila Hospital) and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). On this occasion, representatives from Sightsavers (Munazza Gillani), FHF (Farooq Awan), BHF (Khalid Khan) and CBM (Syed Ali Shah), applauded the joint efforts of all public and private sector partners in leveraging their efforts to achieve a significant reduction in blindness in Pakistan.

Blindness and visual impairment represent an enormous global financial burden with annual global costs of lost productivity. From uncorrected refractive errors alone, the loss is estimated at $270 billion. Over 9 million people are visually impaired. The majority of visually impaired and blind people are over 50 years old. However, vision loss can affect people of all age groups. From 2004 to 2020, through the efforts of NCEH, the College of Ophthalmology at Mayo Hospital, Lahore was established, ophthalmology departments of 32 teachers, 122 DHQs and more than 150 THQ hospitals were established across the country. The NCEH also carried out the cataract surgical mapping in the country which revealed the current Cataract surgery rate (CSR) of 5380, taking Pakistan to number 12 in the world and number 1 among countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). In her remarks on the occasion, Dr. Shazia Somroo said the results of the third survey are very encouraging and the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment is decreasing in Pakistan. She linked these positive results to the effectiveness of the public-private partnership. The parliamentary secretary assured that the government would redouble its efforts to reduce the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment to zero percent in the years to come. Addressing the ceremony, Dr Shabana Saleem, Director General of the Ministry of Health, also said that blindness and visual impairment require more serious efforts from all stakeholders and assured that the ministry will lead more surveys in the future for assessments. She said the successful and fruitful collaboration between NGOs, INGOs and the NCEH was the key to such success.

Source: This news was originally published by propakistani