Eye and Ear Health


Eye Health in the WHO African Region

Using the most up-to-date studies, WHO estimates that in the African Region the number of people with visual impairment is 26.3 million (majority of whom are aged over 50 years). Of these, 20.4 million have low vision and 5.9 million are estimated to be blind. Thus 15.3% of the world's blind population resides in Africa.

Many ocular conditions never lead to blindness or severe visual impairment, but nonetheless constitute an additional strain to already overstretched and understaffed health systems.

Most of the cases of blindness in the African Region are from avoidable causes the most important of which are cataract (50%), glaucoma (15%), corneal opacities (10%), trachoma (6.8%), childhood blindness (5.3%) and onchocerciasis (4%).

Strategies and programmes have been developed for cataract, onchocerciasis, and trachoma and make up the targets of the WHO Global Initiative to Eliminate Avoidable Blindness. "VISION 2020: The Right to Sight", aims to eliminate the causes of blindness as a public health problem by the year 2020. Notable success has been achieved in controlling trachoma in Morocco where the prevalence of active disease in children under 10 years of age has been reduced by 99% since 1997. Control of onchocerciases (River Blindness) through the Onchocerciases Control Programme (1974-2002) resulted in halting in the transmission of disease-causing parasites in 11 West African countries and prevention of 600 000 cases of blindness.

Work is ongoing at WHO/AFRO to develop an essential package for the delivery of eye health services at primary health level in Member States. At the same time a concept paper on The Eye Health Strategic Vision for the African Region 2011-2020 is under discussion in line with the WHO/AFRO document entitled "Achieving Sustainable Health Development in the African Region – Strategic Directions for WHO - 2010-2015".

Action-Plan-2009-2013-smicon Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2009-2013 (6.7 MB)




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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