CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

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Childhood
blindness is an important cause contributing to the burden of blindness
worldwide. It accounts for 4% of global blindness with an alarming number of
blind years occurring as a result.1

An estimated 19 million children are
vision impaired.2
Of these, 12 million children have a vision impairment due to refractive error.
Around 1.4 million are
blind and require access to vision
rehabilitation services to optimize functioning and reduce disability.3 Out of the 1.4 million blind children globally, about
300,000 live in Africa.3,4

In Nigeria, the
prevalence of blindness in people of all ages is estimated to be 0.78%.5 A study carried out in a community in south eastern
Nigeria, estimated the prevalence of blindness to be 0.12 per 1000 children.6

The control
of blindness in children is considered a high priority within the World Health
Organization’s (WHO) VISION 2020.3 This is not just because of the lifetime of blindness
ahead of them but also in consideration of the associated emotional, social and
economic cost to the child, family, and society. Many of the causes of
blindness in children are either preventable or treatable; and many of the
conditions associated with blindness in children are causes of child mortality
as well. They include premature birth, measles, congenital rubella syndrome,
vitamin A deficiency, meningitis, etc.4,7

The major causes of
blindness in children vary widely from region to region, being largely
determined by socioeconomic development, and the availability of primary health
care and eye care services.8These include cataract, congenital glaucoma, corneal
opacities, hereditary retinal
dystrophies, lesions of the optic nerve and retinopathy of prematurity.8,9 Causes of childhood
blindness or severe visual impairment in South- eastern Nigeria are:  cataract, corneal scarring, phthisis bulbi, and
glaucoma/buphthalmos; and the majority of these causes are avoidable.10,11

REFERENCES

1.        Pascolini D,
Mariotti SP. Global estimates of visual impairment: 2010. Br J Ophthalmol. 2012;96(5):614–8.

2.        World Health
Organization. Vision impairment and blindness. WHO. Geneva (CH): World Health
Organization; 2017.

3.        World Health
Organization. Blindness: Vision 2020 – The global initiative for the
elimination of avoidable blindness. WHO. Geneva (CH): World Health
Organization; 2010.

4.        Gilbert C,
Foster A. Childhood blindness in the context of VISION 2020-the right to sight.
Bull World Health Organ. 2001;79(3):227–32.

5.        Nigeria
National Program for Prevention of Blindness. The Nigeria national blindness
and visual impairment survey 2005-2007. Abuja (NG); 2008.

6.        Aghaji AE,
Ezegwui IR, Shiweobi JO, Mamah CC, Okoloagu MN, Onwasigwe EN. Using key
informant method to determine the prevalence and causes of childhood blindness
in south-eastern Nigeria. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2017;24(6):401–5.

7.        Gogate P,
Muhit M. Blindness and cataract in children in developing countries. Community
Eye Health. 2009;22(69):4–5.

8.        World Health
Organization. Priority eye diseases. WHO. Geneva (CH): World Health
Organization; 2014.

9.        Gilbert C,
Muhit M. Twenty years of childhood blindness: what have we learnt? Community Eye
Health. 2008;21(67):46–7.

10.      Ezegwui IR,
Umeh RE, Ezepue F. Causes of childhood blindness: results from schools for the
blind in south eastern Nigeria. Br J Ophthalmol. 2003;87:20–3.

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