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Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 336-343

The Status of Childhood Blindness and Functional Low Vision in the Eastern Mediterranean Region in 2012

1 Department of Research, King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Al Nahdhah Hospital, Ministry of Health, Oman
3 Middle East Africa and IMPACT NGO, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4 Avicenna Consulting Pvt Ltd., Islamabad, Pakistan

Correspondence Address:
Rajiv Khandekar
Department of Research, King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, POB: 7191, Riyadh 11462,

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-9233.142273

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Childhood blindness and visual impairment (CBVI) are major disabilities that compromise the normal development of children. Health resources and practices to prevent CBVI are suboptimal in most countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). We reviewed the magnitude and the etiologies of childhood visual disabilities based on the estimates using socioeconomic proxy indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and <5-year mortality rates. The result of these findings will facilitate novel concepts in addressing and developing services to effectively reduce CBVI in this region. The current study determined the rates of bilateral blindness (defined as  Best corrected visual acuity(BCVA)) less than 3/60 in the better eye or a visual field of 10° surrounding central fixation) and functional low vision (FLV) (visual impairment for which no treatment or refractive correction can improve the vision up to >6/18 in a better eye) in children <15 years old. We used the 2011 population projections, <5-year mortality rates and GDP per capita of 23 countries (collectively grouped as EMR). Based on the GDP, we divided the countries into three groups; high, middle- and low-income nations. By applying the bilateral blindness and FLV rates to high, middle- and low-income countries from the global literature to the population of children <15 years, we estimated that there could be 238,500 children with bilateral blindness (rate 1.2/1,000) in the region. In addition, there could be approximately 417,725 children with FLV (rate of 2.1/1,000) in the region. The causes of visual disability in the three groups are also discussed based on the available data. As our estimates are based on hospital and blind school studies in the past, they could have serious limitations for projecting the present magnitude and causes of visual disabilities in children of EMR. An effective approach to eye health care and screening for children within primary health care and with the available resources are discussed. The objectives, strategies, and operating procedures for child eye-care are presented. Variables impacting proper screening are discussed. To reach the targets, we recommend urgent implementation of new approaches to low vision and rehabilitation of children.

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