Feb 25: The statistics estimated that a total of 285 million people worldwide were visually impaired of which 39 million were blind and 246 million had moderate to severe visual impairment.
These were significantly lower that the 314 million people worldwide that WHO estimated were visually impaired in May 2009, of which 45 million were blind people.
According to the International Agency for the Prevention for Blindness (IAPB), the reduction reflected the investment of governments and their international development partners. A breakdown of the total figure revealed that 63 per cent of those with low vision and 82 per cent of blind people were over 50 years of age. The IAPB stated that the overall reduction in visual impairment was 'all the more remarkable given that the number of people over 50 years old continues to grow rapidly, increasing by [an estimated] 14 per cent in the past five years'.
Among the six WHO regions, South East Asia and the Western Pacific accounted for 73 per cent of moderate to severe visual impairment and 58 per cent of blindness.
Commenting on the statistics IAPB chief executive Peter Ackland said: 'These figures are really encouraging as for the first time we have a clear indication of the downward trend in the absolute number of visually impaired people in the world.'
Ackland added that of the 285 million visually impaired cases, around 80 per cent could be cured, treated or prevented.
Also applauding this success, Natalie Briggs, chief executive of Vision Aid Overseas, said her charity was proud to be a member of the IAPB and a stakeholder in the Vision 2020: The Right to Sight and to have contributed to this impact.
Briggs added: 'With 285 million patients still untreated and many millions more suffering from uncorrected refractive error, there is still a great deal of work to be done and I hope that donors and supporters will continue to work towards the elimination of avoidable blindness through their support of NGOs and aid agencies.'