Over 2.2 billion people are blind or visually impaired, and the numbers are rising. Here’s why.

World Health Organization
World Health Organization
3 min readOct 9, 2019


Phunong Gha Seung, 5, is treated at Vietnam’s National Ophthalmology Institute in Hanoi. Staring at screens for too long increases the risk of myopia, or near-sightedness. ©WHO/Sebastian Liste

Where you live impacts on your chances of being blind or visually impaired.

The poorer your community and country, the more likely you are to be affected.

In lower and middle-income areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia for example, there are over eight times as many blind people as in high-income nations.

Older people, rural communities, ethnic minorities and indigenous people are affected more.

Patient Joyce Engolan has her eyesight checked at Kenya’s Kakuma Hospital. Over 1 billion people live with preventable or treatable eye conditions. ©WHO/Sebastian Liste

In areas where people cannot access regular checkups, treatment and care, eye conditions — such as near or far sightedness, glaucoma and cataracts — may be left to worsen, making daily life needlessly difficult.

People in need of eye care must be able to access it, without suffering financial hardship.

Severely visually impaired people must have access to rehabilitation services that allow them to participate fully in society.

Worldwide, over 2.2 billion people are visually impaired, and over 1 billion are forced to live with preventable or treatable conditions, simply because they cannot get the care they need.

A school girl has her vision tested in Lima, Peru. ©WHO/Sebastian Liste

Rapid population growth, ageing and lifestyle changes are set to swell global demand for eye-care in the coming years.

In some parts of the world, increased time indoors and engaging in ‘near work’ activities — such as staring at computer screens — is leading more and more people to suffer from myopia, or near-sightedness.

To avoid myopia, children need to spend more time outside, and maybe also do some exercise, while they are at it.

Boys in class at the Ober Boy’s Primary School in Kakelo, Kenya. The school is pioneering efforts to support visually impaired children. ©WHO/Sebastian Liste

Worldwide, more and more people are living with diabetes, particularly Type 2, which can impair vision if not spotted and treated.

Nearly everyone living with diabetes will face some form of retinopathy — disease of the retina that impacts on vision quality — at some point in their lives.

For those living with diabetes, regular eye checks and good diabetes control will help protect your vision.

WHO’s first-ever World Report on Vision sets out clear recommendations for countries to address the crucial challenges of eye-care.

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World Health Organization
World Health Organization

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