The power of sight is often taken for granted, but it greatly affects a person’s quality of life. While eye care is improving worldwide, an estimated 1.1 billion people currently suffer from vision loss, and more than 2 billion people need ongoing access to vision care services. It is estimated that 1.7 billion people will have vision loss by 2050.
The most common causes of vision loss are uncorrected refractive error, which affects 671 million people, and cataracts, which affect 100 million people. Fortunately, these vision problems can be prevented or treated.
Most people with vision loss live in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Latter-day Saint Charities’ vision care program is helping to provide sustainable eye care services that can grow to serve millions of people throughout the developing world.
The purpose of Latter-day Saint Charities’ vision care program is to strengthen provision systems, improve the quality of basic eye care systems, and help more people gain access to those systems. Our program emphasizes improving cataract surgical rates (the number of cataract surgeries per year per million people); establishing basic vision care centers for screenings, eye exams, and prescription eyeglasses; and establishing annual school screening programs for children with refractive error.
Latter-day Saint Charities partners with ministries of health and global vision care nonprofit organizations. The following examples highlight how we and our partners are helping to prevent and treat vision loss around the world.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye that leads to a decrease in vision. Untreated cataracts require surgery, but in most cases, this procedure successfully restores vision.
For the 187,500 blind individuals with cataracts in Ghana, there are limited opportunities for treatment. Latter-day Saint Charities, in partnership with the Himalayan Cataract Project, has collaborated with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health on a five-year project to reduce cataracts and improve the sustainability and quality of eye care services. This collaborative effort is working to provide proper equipment to centers and train professionals in high-volume cataract surgery, resulting in self-sustaining eye care centers and an increased cataract surgical rate. Of the 18,000 cataract surgeries performed in Ghana in 2019, more than 20 percent took place at Church-supported centers.
Uncorrected Refractive Error
Refractive error, also known as refraction error, occurs when the shape of the eye prevents light from being focused accurately on the retina. Refractive error can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Eyeglasses are the easiest and safest method of correction.
Latter-day Saint Charities is partnering with Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to expand and improve refractive error treatment in rural Madagascar. The project seeks to establish vision centers in populated areas that will provide resources and support for school screening and outreach programs. School screening programs, particularly in rural areas, allow vision loss to be diagnosed and treated early in life. This increases children’s ability to perform well in school and improves their quality of life.
With the support of our donors and global partners, Latter-day Saint Charities is helping to strengthen eye care systems and reduce vision loss throughout the world.