Eye and Ear Health


Eye Health in the WHO African Region

There are an estimated 9 million blind in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 27 million people are visually impaired. This represents 18,4% of the world’s blind despite the Region having only 11% of global population, and also the highest regional burden of blindness ratio in the world.

47% cent of all blind in the region live in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Democratic republic of the Congo. The number of blind in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase to double by 2020 unless measures are taken to counter the problem. This could have significant socio-economic impact on communities and countries.

The major causes of avoidable blindness in sub-Saharan Africa are cataract (50%), glaucoma mainly open angle, diabetic retinopathy, childhood blindness, trachoma, and onchocerciasis.

Uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment. 80% of the causes of visual impairment including blindness are avoidable.

The available resources to tackle the problem of visual impairment and blindness in sub-Saharan Africa are insufficient. There is marked shortage (particularly midlevel eye care personnel) and maldistribution of human resources and eye care facilities. The current output of eye care services is grossly inadequate and far from addressing the need.

VISION 2020 was launched in 1999 by WHO to eliminate avoidable blindness worldwide by the year 2020. Despite the adoption of  resolution WHA56.26 in 2003, the strain for the response of Member States in WHO/AFRO region in implementing VISION 2020 is still mostly inadequate.

Resolution WHA59.25 listed Prevention of Blindness and Visual impairment as a WHO priority. The resolution calls for increased commitment of both WHO and Member States to support the implementation of National VISION 2020 programmes.

A Regional Strategy on Avoidable Blindness Prevention has been developed and adopted by the Regional Committee (RC57). There is therefore a sense of urgency to scale up the implementation of VISION 2020 in sub-Saharan Africa if the region is to meet the envisaged targets. A Regional action plan will be developed, and at country level activities will follow as resources become available.


Related links:

- Vision 2020: The Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness

WHA56.25: The role of contractual arrangements in improving health systems’ performance [pdf 106 kB]

- WHA56.26: Elimination of avoidable blindness [pdf 105 kB]

Accelerating the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness: A Strategy for the WHO African Region [pdf 48.48 kB]

Ear Health in the WHO African Region

The WHO/AFRO Ear health component of the NPC Programme assists Member States in reducing and eventually eliminating avoidable hearing impairment and disability through appropriate preventive and rehabilitative measures.

The African Region Africa has a critical shortage of adequately trained health workers to deliver ear health services to its populations.

Facts about hearing impairment globally can be found in the WHO deafness and hearing impairment fact sheet 

The Primary Ear and Hearing Care Training Resource can be accessed online


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