Initiative aims to reduce blindness

HA NOI — Viet Nam is striving to reduce blindness to 0.3 per cent by 2020 in an effort to complete its commitment to Vision 2020 – a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness.

"We have to control the main causes of blindness like cataracts, refractive error and glaucoma by providing surgery for at least 170,000 to 300,000 cataract cases each year and eliminating trachoma by 2013," said Director of the Viet Nam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) Do Nhu Hon at the National Conference on Blindness Prevention 2010 on Saturday.

The VNIO said that Viet Nam had around 370,000 blind people among nearly 2 million visually impaired people, about 0.59 per cent of the population, and that around 700,000 cataract cases and 80,000 entropion cases across the country needed surgery as soon as possible.

"Our survey said that more than 30 per cent of blind people in Viet Nam did not realise that their illness could be treated and around one-third of the blind could not afford treatment," stressed Hon.

Authorities would focus activities on establishing an eye care network for children in all key cities and regions of the country along with further strengthening medical facilities and techniques as well as a communication program-me to raise awareness in communities on eye care and eye disease prevention, according to Hon.

A rapid increase in the refractive error rate to 15 per cent of the population in rural areas and 40 per cent in urban areas along with a lack of financial resources and inadequate public knowledge were challenges for the ophthalmology sector in Viet Nam.

Health sector statistics showed that more than 130,000 cataract surgeries were performed during the 2009-10 period, of which 30,000 were carried out by private medical clinics. Viet Nam had around 14.5 optometrists per 1 million people and, at the district level, there were only 202 for 692 districts nationwide.

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