New study shows urgent action is needed to tackle global blindness


Vision 2020 Australia is calling on the Government to step up eye health development programs in light of a new study that found 89 per cent of people with blindness and vision impairment live in low- and middle-income countries.

The Lancet Global Disease Journal published the latest global estimates of the prevalence of blindness, which revealed approximately 253 million people are blind or vision impaired across the globe.

While it is positive that the prevalence of vision impairment has dropped from 4.58 per cent in 1990 to 3.38 per cent in 2015, millions of people are still needlessly losing their sight.

Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘It is pleasing that Australia fares so well in the report.

‘Unfortunately, our decreasing investment in eye health development programs is letting down low-income countries who need our support.’

Amanda Davis, Vision 2020 Australia Director, Brien Holden Vision Institute Chief Operating Officer and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Regional Chair for the Western Pacific, says vision impairment and poverty are closely linked.

‘Importantly, the study acknowledges that vision impairment affects economic and educational opportunities, and reduces quality of life, which can drive people further into poverty,’ Ms Davis says.

‘The study also found that 55 per cent of people who are vision impaired are women. This inequity highlights the need for gender-specific interventions in eye health development programs.’

Ms Northam says: ‘Eye health and vision care programs have the power to lift people out of poverty.

‘Where the Australian Government has funded eye health development programs, significant gains have been made – we just need more support.’

The study found that globally:

  • 36 million people are blind
  • 217 million people have severe or moderate vision impairment (distance)
  • 253 million people are vision impaired (in 2015)
  • 1.1 billion people have near-vision impairment
  • The prevalence of vision impairment dropped from 4.58 per cent in 1990 to 3.38 per cent in 2015
  • 89 per cent of vision impaired people live in low- and middle-income countries
  • 55 per cent of vision impaired people are women.

On World Sight Day, 12 October 2017, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness will release its latest Vision Atlas, which will include causes data and country-level progress indicators from this study.

Read the study in The Lancet.


For more information: Ellie Cooper at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2030, 0403 342 922 or

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents around 50 member organisations involved in local and global eye care, health promotion, low vision support, vision rehabilitation, eye research, professional assistance and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.