|by jamal siddiqui|
|Published on: May 10, 2007|
|Visual Disability represents a serious public health, social and economic problem all over the globe. It is especially true for the developing countries, where 9 out of 10 of the world's visually disabled live. It is estimated that up to 80% of global blindness is avoidable: it either results from the conditions that could have been prevented or can be successfully treated with the sight restored. Today, there is an estimated 180 million people worldwide who are visually disabled. According to WHO, every five seconds a person in the world goes blind and a child goes blind in every minute. Of nearly 37 million visually disabled people world wide the vast majority, i.e Around 90% live in developing countries of them India has the highest number.
The leading cause of blindness globally is cataract, but because of almost entire focus of blindness prevention efforts in India and other developing countries is on Cataract over past 20 years, other causes and conditions were largely ignored. Particularly the conditions; which makes children vulnerable to blindness. It is estimated that 320,000 children under the age of 16 are blind in India, which is 19% of the world’s blind children.
Childhood blindness in India is a major health problem, which not only affects a large population of children but also takes away a large portion of productive years due to blindness in children. In absence of any national survey, a prevalence of 0.8/1000 is estimated for India on basis of few population-based surveys. Using such rate, it is estimated that there are nearly 2.7 lakh blind children in the country
Child afflicted by blindness shows delayed physical, motor, psychological and social development. In addition, it loses out on opportunities for education, employment and financial independence. The family of a blind child goes through immense emotional and physical stress. Moreover, to the family the child would remain a life time of economic burden.
There are several factors which are causative agents for childhood blindness. The three most important of these causative agents is poverty, ignorance and unavailability of quality eye care services.
Poverty in the community manifests itself in many forms:
1. Inadequate nutrition which often results in populations susceptible to sickness and disease. Vitamin A deficiency which is rampant in the catchment area of SNC is largely due to lack of essential nutrition.
2. Lack of basic amenities like safe drinking water, sanitation and healthy environment which results in diseases like diarrhea which are responsible for the death of an infant every 3 minutes in the country or keratomalacia in children who manage to survive.
3. Inability to access quality, specialist health care services on account of distance (such centers are usually located in urban areas) and wages lost of patient as well as attendant on account of absenteeism from work.
4. Inability to take up quality, specialist health care services which usually have a cost attached, for lack of resources.
Illiteracy and ignorance is another major causative agent for blindness amongst children.
Ignorance is another major causative agent for blindness amongst children.
1. Usually, people are unaware of different blinding conditions amongst children.
2. Since childhood blindness usually affects children from poorer communities, parents often wish the condition away or ignore it. Cases are also documented when parents think that the problem would take care of itself with age.
3. Parents are unaware of the specialist treatment required for their children and resort to home remedies or traditional harmful methods of cure which are counter-productive.
4. Rural India has several myths and superstitions surrounding childhood blindness such as squints among girl child are a sign of wealth, cataract will heal as the child goes older, child?s eyes should not be surgically treated etc.
5. Parents are unaware that specialist eye care is available at tertiary level hospitals at a subsidized rate or free of cost, if they are unable to pay.
Moreover, eye care services, especially for the children, are inadequate at the health centers.
but despite the enormity of the problem, 50% of childhood blindness is preventable or treatable.
Yet a long way to go to overcome from this Dark side.