Every day, across the globe, individuals find their world slowly darkening. This loss of sight is gradual and often painless, yet it has a profound impact on the quality of life of those affected. The culprit? A condition known as cataracts – a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that cataracts account for 51% of world blindness, affecting approximately 20 million people as of 2021.
Cataracts can strike anyone but are particularly prevalent among populations in developing countries. While cataract surgery is one of the most effective and common surgical procedures globally, access to these services remains uneven. Therefore, this highlights the importance of cataract operations in these regions.
The Cataract Crisis: A Closer Look
According to WHO, in developing nations, cataracts often go untreated due to a combination of factors, including lack of access to healthcare services, affordability, and awareness about the condition and available treatments.
WHO’s Universal Eye Health: A Global Action Plan 2014-2019 report shows that more than 90% of visually impaired people live in low- and middle-income countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia have disproportionately higher rates of cataract-induced blindness, owing to a dearth of ophthalmic services and limited access to quality, affordable eye care.
A study published in The Lancet Global Health found that the prevalence of blindness due to cataracts in adults aged 50 years and older is nearly five times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
The Social and Economic Impact of Untreated Cataracts
The impact of untreated cataracts reaches far beyond physical health. WHO reports indicate that blindness and visual impairment significantly affect individuals’ quality of life, often leading to social isolation, difficulty in performing everyday tasks, and an increased risk of accidents.
Moreover, blindness due to cataracts can cause severe economic hardship for individuals and communities. A study published in the journal Ophthalmology in 2020 estimated that uncorrected vision loss costs the global economy an astounding $411 billion in purchasing power parity per year.
The Promise of Cataract Surgery
Amid this landscape, the good news is that cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available. The surgery, which replaces the cloudy lens with a clear artificial one, takes as little as 15 minutes and can often restore sight almost immediately.
A WHO report highlights that cataract surgical rates need to be significantly increased in many developing countries to tackle this issue. This is echoed in a 2021 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, which emphasized the urgent need for a global effort to increase cataract surgery rates in these regions.
A Call to Action
Al Basar International Foundation is committed to eliminating avoidable blindness and visual impairment, with a focus on cataract surgery in developing countries. We are partnering with international organizations, healthcare providers, and local communities to increase access to quality eye care services.
While the statistics paint a sobering picture, they also illuminate the path forward. By supporting initiatives that provide access to affordable, quality eye care in underserved communities, we can make a significant impact.
Every donation helps fund critical cataract surgeries and eye health education programs in these regions, enabling adults to return to work and children to succeed in school. Together, we can bring the world into focus for millions of people and transform lives, one eye at a time.
Help us brighten the world. Support cataract operations in developing countries today.